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Capel Relishes Redefining Role
With Joseph Forte and
Brendan Haywood in the
NBA, Jason Capel must step
up his scoring production.
By James Giza
Sport Saturday Editor
Jason Capel has heard it all. He can’t
beat people off the dribble. He’s not
quick enough. He’s a role player: talent
ed and dependable, but a superstar? No
But, for better or worse, it’s his show
now. He knows it. The media know it.
The fans know it.
The exodus of Joseph Forte has left a
scoring void on the North Carolina bas
ketball team this season, and Capel has
been all but anointed the chosen one to
plug the gap.
A quick check of his resume does lit
tle to allay any potential fears that he is
unprepared for the challenge. In his
three seasons as a starter for the Tar
Heels, the forward has never averaged
more than 12.3 points.
Rebounding, diving for loose balls,
finding the open man, maybe nailing a
Lang Looks to Be Big Inside Presence
Laid-back Kris Lang will be
UNC's lone post threat
this year, but he has worked
on expanding his game.
Bv Rachel Carter
Never let it be said Kris Lang is lack
ing in personality.
The 6-foot-10 senior forward/center
is the genial, fun-loving face of North
Carolina’s basketball squad, and Lang
clearly relishes his role as clown prince
of the Tar Heels.
“Am I the class clown of this team?”
Lang said when asked. “I think the
whole team is a bunch of goofballs, actu
ally. ... Not just me."
Maybe Lang’s not the only one, but
he’s the one holding court with the
media, cracking jokes at reporters’ and
his teammates’ expense. He’s the guy
who turned to a ref and said, “Oh yeah,
this year I can jump.”
lire jokes don’t end there. Said Lang,
on entering his fourth year, “I feel like
I’m getting old, like I’m getting gray
hairs or something."
Or, after thoughtfully talking about
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key 3-pointer -
these are the facets
of Capel’s game
that have been on
display while oth
ers have handled
away as he was in
many people have
come to believe
that these parts
the whole of his
“Part of it is
has started each year
11.4 points per game
he’s made a lot of sacrifices his first few
years for the program and maybe let, for
the good of the team, other players
come to the forefront in terms of the
scoring,” UNC coach Matt Doherty
He can’t make those sacrifices this
Not if the Tar Heels want their 32nd
consecutive 20-win year and a shot at
the ACC Championship. Not if they
want to erase the cloud of doubt hanging
over the team.
They need Capel to step out of that
the pride involved
in the North
“You like that, did
n’t you? I dropped
a little knowledge
doesn’t hide that
he’s got some big
shoes to fill this
graduated, the role
of Big Man sud
shot .550 from the
field last year
11.3 points per game.
empty, and Lang is the best-equipped
Tar Heel to fill the role in the post.
A four-year starter for the Tar Heels,
Lang has battled injury but remained a
constant presence for UNC. In his
career, he’s averaging 10.1 points and
5.1 rebounds a game.
In 33 games last year, the forward
chipped in 11.3 points per game, many
coming on his trademark hook shots.
“My game really hasn’t changed,”
Lang said. “I’ve actually lost weight
instead of gained weight or try to get
bigger. I’ve worked on my leg strength
so I can jump better. Big thing is, every-
shadow now more than ever. And he
plans on doing just that.
“I really don’t care what people say,
honestly," said Capel, addressing a
crowd of assembled media recently. “I
think I’ve shown throughout my career
here that I can compete and I can play
and do anything that anybody else in
this league can do.
“It’s just that I’m the type of player,
I’m going to fill the void. If you need me
to do any particular thing, I can do it.
I’m not a one particular duty guy on the
team. I can do it all.
“This year, I’m going to be asked to
score more - something I’ve waited for,
something I know I’m ready for. And if
it’s proving it to y’all, great. But I know
I can do it, so it won’t be that big of a
surprise to me.”
He certainly showed flashes of go-to
guy potential last season when he aver
aged 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds (tied
for the team lead with 7-foot center
There was the win against Buffalo
when he recorded the second triple-dou
ble in North Carolina history with 16
points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. There
was the win at Duke when he scored 20
points, grabbed six boards and dished
one knows I have the lefthand and right
hand jump hook.
“I really never worked on that this
summer. I worked on the ffee-throw line
and the 17- to 18-foot jumper from any
where. That’s something that I’m not
just feel confident in, but comfortable in,
Adding the jumper will help Lang
tally points for the Tar Heels. When
Haywood was on the court, defenses
focused on Haywood down low and
sometimes ignored Lang. But without
Haywood, all the attention in the post
will be focused on Lang, and he’s going
to face his share of double teams.
“One of the things he was known for
is his inside presence,” said UNC center
Brian Bersticker. “Maybe he’s not a
7-footer, but Kris has shown he can
score on the block.”
Lang is going to have to score inside
for UNC to be successful. While
Bersticker and redshirt freshman Neil
Fingleton have the height, Bersticker’s
light frame and Fingleton’s conditioning
raise big questions about their abilities to
be effective inside.
And if Julius Peppers doesn’t come
back, there is even more burden on
Lang’s shoulders to hold up the Tar
Heels’ inside game.
out five assists.
And there was the win against
Maryland on the day he was referred to
as a “role player” in a local newspaper
when he poured in a career-high 27
“Some people would view it as a pos
itive article," Doherty said. “He viewed
it as, ‘Don’t label me. I’m a player. I’m
not a role player. I’m a basketball play
If Capel can use the doubts he has
encountered heading into this season for
similar motivation, he could be danger
He’ll be playing primarily at power
forward, as opposed to small forward,
his usual position. With Kris Lang shift
ing to center, Doherty hopes that Capel
can draw his man away from the basket
and open up the inside.
But what everyone is waiting to see is
the ball in his hands. He has been select
ed the chosen one. The question now is,
will he deliver?
“I think a go to guy is a guy with con
fidence, a guy who believes in himself
and a guy who can put the ball in the
basket,” Tar Heel point guard Adam
Boone said. “And he definitely fits that
“He’s fought through illness, through
injuries, his whole career here,” Capel
said. “But he’s healthy, he’s confident,
he’s worked really hard over the sum
mer, really improved every facet of his
game from conditioning to hitting
15-, 17-foot jump shots. So he’ll have a
good year. We need him to have a good
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Melendez Out to Prove
He's More Than Dunks
By Randy Wellington
For Orlando Melendez, his last year
at North Carolina has already been
“When we won the Florida State
(football) game it was great,” Melendez
said. “Me, Kris and Capel were going
crazy in the stands and we ran out on
the field to celebrate.”
Cheering and celebrating have been
Melendez’s forte since he came to
A senior from Puerto Rico, he has
not seen much playing time for the Tar
Heels. He scored eight points in 10
games played last year.
But this summer, he played for his
country in an international tournament.
“The best thing I did was win a gold
medal in Central America. I was able to
play some games with the senior nation
al team in Puerto Rico,” Melendez said.
“International games are a lot more
physical. The players are more athletic
and faster. I like playing both (college
and international basketball). I appreci
ate the differences.”
Athleticism is a major part of
Melendez’s game. His pregame dunks
at Midnight With the Tar Heels drew
cheers from the crowd.
When he enters games, those in
attendance become excited at die
prospect of a soaring Melendez jam.
Considering that his playing time has
been sparse over the course of his
career, Melendez knows that his contri
butions can come in different ways.
“I want to play, but I’ll contribute
any way I can,” Melendez said.
Melendez saw his most playing time
in his sophomore season, playing in 24
games. That year, he averaged 1.5
Friday, November 9, 2001
points and 1.2 rebounds a game.
His season-high in points and
rebounds came against Tennessee Tech,
with seven and four, respectively.
Last year, in addition to the eight
points, Melendez had eight rebounds.
Twice, he achieved his season-high of
two against Miami and later against
Duke in the ACC Tournament final.
More important to Melendez,
though, are the relationships he has built
with his teammates through the years.
One of those teammates, Brian
Bersticker, another fifth-year senior,
tickles Melendez’s funny bone.
“There are many funny things about
Bersticker,” Melendez said. “He has a
John Deere hat that he wore for the entire
ride from Virginia when he first got his
truck. He still wears it sometimes.”
Regardless of his role, Melendez is
optimistic about the Tar Heels’ chances.
“We look really good. We’re an ath
letic team. We’re definitely faster and
more up-tempo this season.
“Cheering the guys on on the bench
helps the team, and practicing hard
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