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UNC’s Disaster Relief Jamboree preview: UNCW Seahawks

A “new era” begins for both the UNCW Seahawks and head coach C.B. McGrath.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Virginia vs North Carolina-Wilmington Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Former North Carolina basketball assistant coach, C.B. McGrath, and the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks will head up I-40 to Chapel Hill on Sunday for the Disaster Relief Jamboree. Coach McGrath will be making his first trip back to UNC since taking over for Kevin Keatts at UNCW this past spring. McGrath had spent the past 14 years as Roy Williams’ assistant coach at North Carolina.

Joining McGrath, Jeff Lebo (ECU), and Wes Miller (UNCG) on Sunday as former players and coaches with UNC ties are Jackie Manuel and Joe Wolf. Manuel and Wolf both joined the UNCW coaching staff as assistant coaches after McGrath accepted the job in Wilmington. Manuel joins the Seahawks after working as an assistant coach at Valpo, while Wolf heads back to the college ranks after time spent in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets.

The Seahawks will face the Tar Heels in the final segment (14 minutes) of the unique round robin style exhibition. This will be the first time that UNCW has played in Chapel Hill since 2013, when the Seahawks lost to the Tar Heels 84-51. The two teams have not met often, though that may change with McGrath now at the helm, as UNC leads the all-time series record 3-0.

Coach McGrath takes over a UNCW program that finished 29-6 last season (lost to Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament) under Kevin Keatts. The Seahawks have been crowned the Colonial Athletic Association’s regular season champions the last three years, and have won the CAA conference tournament the last two seasons.

However, much like North Carolina, there are a number of new faces on the UNCW roster this upcoming season. The Seahawks lost four starters and four out of their five leading scorers from the previous year’s team, either due to graduation or transfer.

The one returning starter and fourth leading scorer from 2016-2017 is Devontae Cacok. Cacok was the one post player in Coach Keatts’ offense last season, was the CAA Defensive Player of the Year, and shot a record breaking 80% from the field. As noted in this Jeremy Fuchs article, Cacok will be asked by Coach McGrath to do more on offense and from a little further away from the basket this season.

Coach McGrath and the new coaching staff will look to rely on their three seniors for leadership throughout the season, especially with so much turnover both on the court and along the sideline. However, McGrath will not have the height that he has been used to the last 14 seasons at Carolina, as only one player is listed over seven feet tall (Trey Kalina).

Jordan Talley came off the bench for the Seahawks all of last season, but will be called upon to step into a starting role with four starters leaving in the offseason. Talley averaged 7.6 points per game and 2.6 assists per game off the bench, so look for those numbers to increase this year with a more prominent role.

Marcus Bryan (2.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg) and Nick Powell (0.8 ppg, 0.5 rpg) are the other two seniors on the team, but played limited minutes the previous season.

Another player from the previous year’s team who might have a chance to make an impact this season, especially with so many available minutes, is guard Ty Taylor. Taylor is a transfer from Wichita State (where he averaged 3.0 ppg), but will have the opportunity to play this season after having sat out all of last year.

The holdovers from the previous season will not have to adjust too much to their new coach’s uptempo style of play, as the Seahawks had one of the most high-powered offenses in the country (84.8 ppg, which was 11th best in the NCAA) and liked to get up and down the court quickly.

Replacing last year’s departures are six new players to the UNCW roster. McGrath’s first recruits, and the only two Freshman on the team, are Jay Estime and Jeffrey Gary. Both come in as talented shooters from the outside, which will be needed with so much of the offense leaving after last season.

The UNCW coaching staff also brought in four transfers (Jacque Brown, Trey Kalina, Daniel Etoroma, and Jeantal Cylla). Brown, Kalina, and Etoroma will all be eligible immediately since they are transferring from community colleges, while Cylla will have to sit out the 2017-2018 season since he is coming from FAU.

After losing so many starters from the previous season, the Seahawks were picked to finish 5th in the CAA conference this season by the coaches and media in the preseason voting.

After this Sunday’s Jamboree, Coach McGrath and the Seahawks will prepare for their first regular season game on November 11th against North Carolina Wesleyan.