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Nassir Little says he struggled at UNC because the coaching staff didn’t clarify his role

Nassir Little on his lack of clarity playing for North Carolina

Former Tar Heel Nasir Little didn’t feel his offensive role in one season with the Tar Heels was very clear.
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Former Tar Heel Nasir Little didn’t feel his offensive role in one season with the Tar Heels was very clear.

Former North Carolina forward Nassir Little says he never got a clear understanding from the coaching staff what his role on the basketball team was this past season. As a result, he struggled.

“It created a lot of hesitancy, which wasn’t really allowing me to play like myself,” Little told reporters at the NBA Combine in Chicago on Thursday.

Little also said, however, he would not have gone straight to the NBA from high school if there was not a rule against it, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“Playing against actual defense,” Little said, according to the Free Press. “In high school, there’s no help, you beat your guy and dunk. If you think you’re going to the NBA and you think it’s going to be that easy, you’re in for a rude awakening.

“Going to college exposes you to that a little bit and I think it’s helpful for guys going to the NBA.”

Little, a 6-6, 220-pound forward played one season at UNC. He averaged 9.8 points per game and 4.6 rebounds as the team’s sixth-man. But he was hot and cold at times throughout the season on both the offensive and defensive ends.

He played small forward when UNC went big, and power forward, or the four, when UNC went small. He had never played the four before coming to UNC.

There were games where Little would score 20 points and others where he would score 5.

Little played well during UNC’s first two games of the NCAA tournament in March. He averaged 19.5 points through two games, but came down with flu-like symptoms before UNC’s Sweet 16 game against Auburn on March 29.

He scored four points, grabbed three rebounds, as UNC lost to the Tigers 97-80.

UNC basketball officials declined to comment.

A McDonald’s All-American and five-star prospect out of Florida, Little was highly recruited coming out of high school. He came off the bench in every game last season. His role as the team’s sixth man initially frustrated UNC fans who felt he should have started.

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But as the season wore on, it became clear that the players in UNC’s starting-five were its most consistent.

Little, who was often asked by reporters about his role on the team, rarely expressed frustrations during the season. But early in the season, he did talk about his desire to earn more minutes.

UNC coach Roy Williams would often say Little needed to play better defense. His defense seemed to improve as the season progressed.

Little, who declared for the 2019 draft in April, is expected to be a lottery pick. According to NBA.com’s mock draft, Little is projected to go No. 12 overall to the Charlotte Hornets. It’s unclear if he’s hired an agent.

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Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.

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