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UNC Basketball: How would Sacha Killeya-Jones fit?

The former five-star is transferring from Kentucky. Could the Tar Heels be his landing spot?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Buffalo vs Kentucky Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, news emerged from Inside Carolina that North Carolina was interested in Kentucky transfer Sacha Killeya-Jones. After two season coming off the bench in Lexington, the 6-10 power forward got a full release from the Wildcats.

While bringing in transfers hasn’t always been Roy Williams’ style (Cam Johnson was the first in several years), it certainly makes sense that the Tar Heels would be interested in Killeya-Jones. He was a five-star recruit out of high school from Chapel Hill whom UNC offered the first time around. He ruled out Carolina in his first recruitment due to the NCAA investigation, and hey, that’s cleared up recently.

Whether or not he would come to UNC is still far from certain. The Tar Heels are not the only major conference school interested in someone who was ranked that highly out of high school. However considering the local connections, he’s definitely an intriguing possibility. So, how would he fit in Carolina blue?

Killeya-Jones was the 23rd ranked prospect in the 2016 class according to the 247 composite rankings. He averaged just under 12 minutes in 48 games across his two years at Kentucky. Last season, he played 14 a game, averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds.

Killeya-Jones isn’t exactly a back to the basket post player, but also isn’t going to step out and shoot threes at a Luke Maye-like rate. He’s a good athlete, and can finish at the rim or in the post. He’s also shown some ability in the mid-range, and can move well with the ball and score off the dribble. He’s got long arms and is a pretty solid rebounder.

One of the main knocks against Killeya-Jones is his frame. By many accounts, he needs to get stronger. (We have seen the UNC staff do a pretty good job at that, it should be noted.) He’s also not a great free throw shooter, and he’s had the occasional problems with turnovers. His defense has gotten mixed reviews, but the scouting reports from his college days as opposed to high school have seemed to lean more positive on that front. Those are all things that certainly can get better as someone gets older and more accustomed to college basketball.

His freshman year in particular, he put up some solid per 40 numbers. Those dropped off his sophomore year as he got more playing time, however.

Now, how would he fit on Carolina?

If Killeya-Jones does decide to come to UNC, we do know he won’t see the court next season. This isn’t a Cam Johnson grad transfer situation, he would have to sit out a full year.

So, if we look at the possible roster for 2019-20, he seems to fit decently well right now. Luke Maye (and Johnson, considering his usage this past year with the small ball lineups) will have graduated. Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley, and Brandon Huffman would all be juniors, and UNC currently doesn’t have any other out-and-out bigs committed.

There will definitely be plenty of minutes available to him. Even if one or two of the freshman bigs from this year make a big leap, there would still be plenty of opportunity. As we saw from the 2017 championship team, Roy Williams will go four deep in the frontcourt. If they don’t quite develop enough and there’s a big hole, then there’s a starting slot and a major role available. Plus, he would have a year of practicing, training, and getting accustomed to UNC before ever having to step on court in a game.

At least right now, this is still in the pipe dream phase. There certainly are interesting things about Killeya-Jones as a player and logical reasons he might want to come to UNC. He could also decide tomorrow to go to Nevada or some other school on this list and it all becomes moot. However, anytime a former five-star from the city where the school is becomes available, it’s something to think about.