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UNC basketball: Is Seventh Woods ready to be “the guy”?

The junior point guard is staring at a vastly increased role next season.

ACC Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The 2018-19 Tar Heels appear to have the pieces to make another national championship run. They return a wealth of experience and bring in a loaded recruiting class, a not-so-secret recipe for winning basketball games. The lone question mark for this team, though, is a big one.

For the first time in what feels like forever, Roy Williams’ team will enter the season without a proven, reliable point guard to run the offense. Many believe incoming freshman Coby White could take over, but we all know how difficult life can be for young point guards in Williams’ system. Then, there’s Seventh Woods.

Woods arrived at Chapel Hill with lots of hype. Known for his insane athleticism and mind-blowing dunks, fans couldn’t wait to see him make those flashy plays in Carolina blue. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone as well as planned.

Struggling with injuries and playing behind perhaps the most decorated Tar Heel ever in Joel Berry left Woods scavenging for playing time. He averaged 7.7 and 7.0 minutes per game, respectively, in his first two years with the Tar Heels.

Next season, it will be much different. Regardless of whether he starts, Woods is in line for a considerably bigger role. Given how little he’s seen the court, it’s hard to know what to expect from him, but here are a few things we do know.

For one, the value of two years of experience in Roy Williams’ system cannot be overstated. Despite similar production, there was a noticeable difference in Woods’ approach between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Last year, the game appeared to slow down a great deal for him, and he cut down on those silly turnovers. Whereas freshman Woods often sought out the flashy play, he displayed more discipline and started letting the game come to him.

Moreover, Woods arguably had the best mid-range game on the team. His little 15-foot pull-up jumper was seemingly automatic. Not only that, but he made great strides defensively which isn’t too surprising given his superior athleticism. All in all, Woods was quietly putting in some very solid minutes before he got injured.

Speaking of, it’s possible that injuries are truly the only thing holding him back. Personally, I don’t think Woods has been 100% healthy since he got to Carolina. For someone who relies so heavily on speed and quickness, the multiple foot injuries he’s suffered have surely set him back a great deal.

In terms of his role for next season, Woods appears to have a good shot at earning a starting spot. He and White will likely battle throughout the summer, but given how Coach Williams tends to favor experience, especially for such a challenging position, I’d be surprised if Woods isn’t in the lineup when Carolina kicks the season off at Wofford on November 6th.

Woods’ junior season could seemingly go one of many different ways, but one thing I will say is this: if he manages to stay healthy for an entire year, the rest of the country better watch out for the Tar Heels.