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UNC basketball: Can Brandon Huffman expand his role from last season?

The sophomore big man may have a tough time moving up the depth chart.

Western Carolina v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Coming into last season, Brandon Huffman was squarely in the conversation, along with fellow freshmen Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley, to earn significant minutes on a roster that lacked experience down low. However, Brooks and Manley separated themselves early on and Huffman got buried on the depth chart.

Huffman will have his work cut out for him as he enters his sophomore campaign. With the arrival of three talented freshmen (albeit none that play his position), it’s possible he could see a similar or even smaller role this year. In order to earn a healthy share of minutes, Huffman must prove to Coach Williams and the rest of the staff that he belongs back in that conversation with Brooks and Manley.

Last season, Huffman averaged 1.6 points and 1.4 rebounds in just 3.4 minutes a game. Although he didn’t necessarily stand out in the instances where he did see the court, it seemed a little odd how quickly his playing time was diminished. For a little bit there at the beginning of the season, Huffman was getting similar opportunities as Brooks and Manley, and those two weren’t exactly dominating. Then, Huffman was essentially relegated to Blue Steel while the other two continued to split time.

Of course, plenty of that was likely decided in practice, and to be fair, there were some obvious holes in his game, specifically on the offensive side. But if nothing else, Huffman is a big body who can go get you some rebounds. Physically, he’s arguably as complete as anyone on the team. His six-foot-ten, 250-pound frame of seemingly all muscle could potentially be frightening for opposing teams if he can put things together.

Huffman has mostly fallen off peoples’ radars, and rightfully so, but his progression this summer is something to keep an eye on. He needs to develop some true post moves and better footwork around the basket, and he must prove he can hang with college big men. Still, there’s a case to be made that his potential is as high as the other bigs.

In all likelihood, though, Huffman will end up in a role similar to the one he had as a freshman. While he has plenty of room to improve, he’s still having to play catch up with Brooks and Manley. I’d expect Huffman to continue his development as he spends another year mostly watching from the sidelines, but he’ll have a chance to make a true impact in his final two seasons, possibly sooner barring some expedited growth.