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UNC Tar Heels Basketball: Freshman class preview

These boys are going to be good, y’all.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Charlotte Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Basketball season is nearly here, which are always welcome words to a Tar Heel fan’s ears. The UNC men’s basketball team will see their first action of the 2018-2019 season on Friday in an exhibition game against Mount Olive at the Smith Center. Ahead of that game, Tar Heel Blog will be breaking down previews of each class. Today we tackle the trio of talented freshmen.

#1 Leaky Black | 6’7” | Guard

Black may not get the same level of hype that his freshman teammates do, but he’s every bit deserving of praise. The 6’7” guard averaged over 13 points and nearly six rebounds per game as he helped to lead his high school team to the 3A state championship in 2018.

Even though you might not assume so based on his height, Black is a capable ball-handler who can play point guard when asked to do so. Expect him to play anywhere between the point and small forward positions during his time in Chapel Hill. Roy Williams loves versatile players, and it seems like he’ll be able to get pretty creative with where to play Leaky this season.

Being able to deploy that kind of size at the point guard position could be a huge advantage for UNC this season. Although the Tar Heels have Seventh Woods and Coby White as the likely candidates to get the majority of minutes at the point, having Black as an option could certainly throw teams off.

Regardless of which position Black plays on the court, he brings in a strong skillset that should make him an effective option for Williams whenever he needs him.

#2 Coby White | 6’4” | Guard

With Joel Berry II graduating from UNC after last season, the Tar Heels will need to replace their starting point guard. Seventh Woods has been in Roy Williams’ system for a few years now and that might be enough to get him the nod early on in the season, but absolutely no one would be surprised if White snatches the job away at some point this year.

The five-star recruit out of Greenfield School in Wilson has put on a show for years now, breaking North Carolina high school scoring records and winning a gold medal in the Americas U18 tournament as a member of Team USA. White, a McDonalds All-American, averaged an astounding 30 points per game as a senior at Greenfield last year.

At 6’4” with a knack for finding the basket, scouts have listed White as a combo guard; however, Williams has stated that he won’t hesitate to use Coby at the point. The ability to score is definitely there and we’ve seen that time and time again, but the true test will be what kind of passer White can be in Williams’ system. If he can figure that out sooner rather than later, there is little doubt he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future.

#5 Nassir Little | 6’6” | Forward

Little has already collected some impressive hardware, taking home MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic and the McDonalds All-American Game, but he’ll be trying to take home one more in the form of a championship ring during his time in Chapel Hill. Draft experts are already projecting Little to be one of the top picks in the 2019 NBA Draft.

The five-star recruit comes to Carolina with the most hype of any player in years. He’s just that good. He averaged 20 points and nine rebounds per game as a senior at Orlando Christian Prep last year, winning the state title in both of his final two years of high school.

Little lives up to the hype surrounding him with impressive athleticism that makes him a nightmare for the opposition to guard. His UNC teammates have already been quoted saying that defenders are going to need to make “business decisions” when guarding Little this season, and it’s easy to see why. In addition to his ability to punish defenders offensively, defense is certainly not a portion of his game that he mails in. Nassir has the quickness and length, but also the strength, to keep his opponents from getting off easy shots.

That kind of complete player is extremely exciting to have suiting up for your favorite team. Little is a special kind of player who has the ability to help his teammates shine by doing all of the little things (as well as the big things) right.

The only question is whether or not there will be an immediate spot for Little in the starting lineup this season. It seems like it would be obvious that having someone with Little’s talent on the floor the majority of the time would put UNC in the best position to win, but it’s possible that Roy uses a bit of a “swinging door” approach that cycles people in and out as necessary. For selfish reasons, we all want to see as much of Nassir play as possible, but there should also be some trust that Roy is going to put his team in the best position to win.

Little could very well be the fourth one-and-done player for UNC. He has the talent if that is the path he chooses. Regardless of how long he ends up playing in a Carolina uniform, it will be very exciting to have him showing off his abilities for our favorite team.

Just four more sleeps until we get to see all of it in action.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the sophomore class.