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UNC basketball: Can Brandon Robinson become a consistent perimeter threat?

The skilled sophomore will look to forget about his past shooting woes.

NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The North Carolina Tar Heels are looking to replace five key guys in Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley, and Nate Britt coming off a national championship. This means there will be players from that squad forced to step into expanded roles. Brandon Robinson is a perfect example of someone who must shoulder a heavier load next season.

Robinson is a six-foot-five, 165-pound shooting guard from Douglasville, Georgia. This past year for the Tar Heels, he managed to find 7.6 minutes a game despite a wealth of talent at his position. In those minutes, he averaged 1.9 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per game. Given the limited amount of time Robinson saw the floor, it is hard to draw any conclusions strictly from these numbers. However, the aforementioned departing players leave a whopping 113.2 mpg up for grabs so expect a major uptick in production.

Talk of Robinson has been relatively quiet since the season ended. When it comes to predicting who will break out next year, his name is rarely mentioned simply because there are so many other viable candidates. Don’t sleep on B-Rob, though.

Robinson can contribute in a lot of ways. His height, wingspan, and athleticism allow him to be very versatile on both sides of the ball. He can become a great defender in his time at Chapel Hill if he can improve his footwork. Roy Williams has even compared him to Jackie Manuel, the designated lockdown defender for UNC’s 2005 national championship team. He is also a solid rebounder and reliable passer, but perhaps what creates the most intrigue is his ability to shoot.

Robinson was considered a sharpshooter coming out of high school. Although he didn’t exactly live up to that billing in his freshman campaign (he shot 23% from deep), something tells me sophomore Brandon Robinson will be a different beast. For one, he will have had a full offseason of working with the strength and conditioning staff to put on some weight. At times, it appeared difficult for Robinson to hang with bigger and stronger dudes he was clearly not used to playing against in high school. Also, as I mentioned earlier, he will have ample opportunities to contribute in comparison to his first season. The last piece of the puzzle is simply confidence, because the ability is there, just waiting to be unlocked.

I’ll never forget the 2012-2013 season. It was Marcus Paige’s first year wearing Carolina Blue. Like Robinson, he was a highly touted shooter coming in, but was under-sized and struggled adjusting to the college game. With Kendall Marshall gone, he ran the offense for the Tar Heels and thus put immense amounts of pressure on himself. Paige endured a season of very spotty shooting and left fans wondering if he was actually the real deal. Roy Williams quickly denounced any doubts about Paige, assuring everyone that he would find his stroke in his second season and prove why he was a McDonald’s All-American. Boy, was he right.

Paige exploded in his sophomore season, averaging 17.5 ppg (a 9.3 ppg increase from the previous year), earning him second team All-America honors. His three point shooting percentage jumped from 34% to 39% as he quickly established himself as the most clutch player in the ACC. I’m not saying necessarily that Brandon Robinson is the next Marcus Paige, but I would like to point out the difference a year can make as well as the fact that Paige and Robinson share many similarities.

If Robinson can muster the same type of confidence Paige was able to manifest, he could see similar advances in his efficiency. Regardless, he will bring a lot to the table for a team that will be searching for an identity early on. A consistent jumpshot, though, could determine the role he plays in establishing said identity.