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UNC basketball: Could the Tar Heels land another big man for 2018?

What it would mean to secure either E.J. Montgomery or Jordan Brown

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Charlotte Practice Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Many believed that the commitment received from five star and consensus top ten recruit Nassir Little was the last for the Tar Heels’ 2018 class. That could still very well be the case, but for now, Roy Williams remains diligent on the recruiting trail, attempting to add to a group that already includes Little, five-star combo guard Coby White, and four-star small forward Rechon Black.

Just a couple months ago, Williams extended an offer to five star power forward E.J. Montgomery, who recently participated in the McDonald’s All-American game alongside Little and White. Additionally, there have been talks within the past week that UNC has expressed interest in another McDonald’s All-American big man, Jordan Brown (Editor’s note: After this article was written, InsideCarolina put an article on their front page reporting that Williams has reached out to Brown. The article is VIP-locked).

Montgomery is very long and athletic with soft touch around the basket and shooting range out to at least the college 3-point line. Criticized earlier in his high school career for a lack of toughness, the general consensus is that when he wants to be, Montgomery can be one of the best big men in the country.

Meanwhile, Brown, while not quite as flashy as Montgomery, has shown great polish offensively. He possesses the athleticism to be successful in college and beyond, but it will be his footwork and finishing ability inside that separates him. Brown poured in 26 points and 8 rebounds in the McDonald’s All-American game.

Both players are extremely skilled and likely ready to contribute right away.

While Carolina has no more than an outside chance at landing either one of these recruits, it’s worth pondering what it would mean to add another talented big man to the roster.

The Tar Heels struggled for the entirety of this past season to find production down low. Between Luke Maye and the freshmen bigs, there was really nobody to consistently feed the ball to on the block. Maye had a difficult time trying to score over bigger and more athletic defenders, and neither Garrison Brooks nor Sterling Manley was ready to bear that kind of burden offensively for an extended period of time.

The result was extreme small-ball with 6’7” Luke Maye playing the five position, a lineup decision that, while absolutely necessary, probably kept Roy Williams up at night. Overall, this Carolina team did better than expected, earning a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, but the season came to a disappointing end when the Heels ran into a bigger and more physical Texas A&M team in the second round. There’s a reason UNC’s teams under Williams had never lost before the elite eight as a 1 or 2 seed until this season, and it’s not because those teams jacked up 31 threes.

Thus, it makes sense that Williams wants to add some depth to his frontcourt ahead of the 2018-2019 season. The future remains very bright for both Brooks and Manley, but there’s no guarantee that they will make that freshman-to-sophomore leap. Bringing in another forward who can contribute right away could take some pressure off those two.

Additionally, assuming Montgomery and Brown are potential candidates to go one-and-done, it’s worth noting the past success of Tar Heel bigs who spent just one year in college. In 2005 and 2017 respectively, Marvin Williams and Tony Bradley played vital roles off the bench en route to national championships, all the while increasing their draft stock. Either of these two could play a similar role for a team that, if a couple things fall into place, could very well be a title contender next season.