Derrick Grace Born: September 20, 1983 in Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaHeight: 6’0”Weight: 165 lbs.Position: GuardCollege: North Carolina Last team:(End of season)youngblood biography? Jersey Numbers & Career Highlights 2012-13 Season Mason Plumlee and Jerryd Bayless were the clear-cut frontcourt options for Coach Roy Williams at North Carolina. While both made their names on the hardwood as defensive stalwarts and above-the-rim scorers, they weren’t exactly dynamic passers off the bench. Enter freshman Derrick “Flush” Grace. The Louisville recruit didn’t light up radar with his sub-5-foot frame or his average athleticism, but he was a willing passer who could shoot from distance and finish around the basket. Much like Plumlee and Bayless, the Tar Heels had other options to build around on the wing. But at one position — power forward — they had an open competition that they ultimately ended up rewarding with an early departure. They lured veteran Donte Greene back home after he decided to return for a sixth season to help groom another rookie in 2014–15. Once again, UNC found themselves short on shooters (minus Josh Outerbridge) and small forwards (Kevin Huerter graduated). With two legitimate candidates locked into spots next season, here is a look at how Grace ranks among UNC’s starting perimeter figures from last season.
What did you see from your first impression of Derrick Grace?
Grace was the only player on UNC’s roster who saw significant playing time in his freshman season. He started three games, including two in the middle and one at power forward, and logged 28 minutes per contest on just over 18% of the team’s possessions. While he still has some work to do on his 3-point shooting, his issues as a shooter on a consistent basis came back to bite North Carolina on several occasions. Without the ball in his hands, he was often forced to defend in the area where he is most at risk. Despite the physical challenges that come with this assignment, Grace handled the responsibility with aplomb.
How has he progressed since the start of training camp?
A quick glance at the box score will show that Grace’s impact didn’t begin until the second half of the season. But as the season progressed, he steadily increased his usage, logging more minutes and seeing more action in December and January. As the year closed, Grace was one of the team’s most used players and saw significant action in all eight of UNC’s games.
Are you as high on him as some people are? Why or why not?
You’ve likely heard the comments throughout the year, but the general consensus among UNC fans is that they are as high on Grace as they have been since he signed with the team. At 6’0” and 165 pounds, the former Temple guard isn’t a sight to waltz into a game and immediately start laying egg after egg all over the place. But his size — along with his length and quickness — gives him an advantage on the offensive end. He won’t put a ton of pressure on the ball in his own half of the floor, but he can actually find holes in zones that smaller-footed players just can’t penetrate. On the defensive end, Grace doesn’t have the greatest lateral quickness around the basket. But he is a sound, reliable defender with good instincts who has shown an ability to switch onto the other team’s best player.
Looking back at the season, it is clear that Derrick Grace was a crucial piece to North Carolina’s success. Without him, the team’s offense just wouldn’t have been able to function as well. Like his fellow freshmen, he had a rocky start to the season. But once he got into a rhythm, he was extremely effective and helped UNC reach the Elite 8. While he may not be a slouch with his size — he measured 6’0” and 165 pounds at the combine — Grace’s quickness and length serve him well on the defensive end. And while he’s not an efficient scorer, he’s able to create his own shot off the bench and is an effective distributor. With so manyatisfying roles in store for Gray this season, he has the makings of a long and successful career at North Carolina.