The NBA is the top basketball league on the globe and filled with dozens of the top athletes from around the world. It takes elite talent, a diverse skill set, and the conversion of luck, timing, and necessity to grab one of the highly coveted roster spots on a team. The University of North Carolina is one of the few collegiate programs that consistently provides talent to fill these roster spots. However, sometimes even the most successful and beloved of college players struggle to sustain success at the next level. For many former Tar Heels that have this problem, they decide to take their talents overseas. The past few years have seen multiple former high profile Heels take this route:
- Jalek Felton
The former five-star player was the highlight of the 2017 recruiting class. The nephew of UNC legend and national champion Raymond Felton, Jalek came into the season as the top option to backup Joel Berry. But inconsistencies with ball security and shot selection made it difficult for him to stay on the court before a still undisclosed infraction caused him to be kicked out of school. Since then, the younger Felton has signed to play professionally in Slovenia, hoping to resurrect a once promising basketball future.
- Ty Lawson
Lawson is another honorable mention because the Washington Wizards pulled him from China for the playoffs this year. The former Tar Heel and national champion began his NBA career extremely well before off the court troubles began to cause issues for the point guard. After bouncing around the League for a few years, Lawson decided to play in China in 2017. After rediscovering his game (25 points, 6 assist and 2 steals were his averages in China), Lawson earned a spot on the Wizards for their playoff run, but has yet to resign in China or with the Wizards.
- Nate Britt
Britt was a key piece off the bench for the Tar Heels 2017 title run, a season that perfectly defined his four-year career in Chapel Hill. After his senior year, Britt went undrafted and it looked like he would be relegated to the G-League for the forseeable future until he signed with the Glasgow Rocks out of Scotland. This proved to be a very productive move, as he averaged 11 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds and 1 steal per game. Britt was always seen as a great guy who did whatever was asked of him to win, so it’s nice to see him succeeding after his time at Carolina.
- J.P. Tokoto
Ah what could have been if J.P. Tokoto had stayed for his senior year. One of the most electrifying athletes Carolina had seen in years, Tokoto became known for his high flying dunks as well as lock down D while at UNC. After his junior year he declared for the NBA draft and was selected by the 76ers in the second round. However he was unable to carve out a spot on the active roster and spent time in the G-League before signing with the Perth Wildcats in Australia in 2017 where he averaged 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal per game. This performance earned him an invite to play with the Warriors summer league team this past summer, but in July he signed to play with Hapoel Eilat in Israel. Best of luck to him in the coming season.
- Joel James
While Joel James might be best remembered for the GIFs he provided us with (big boy’s gotta eat), he was a key contributor to Carolina’s run to the 2016 run to the title game. A steady presence in the post off the bench, Joel was another dependable guy that exemplified what it meant to be a University of North Carolina basketball player. After graduating, Joel began his professional career in Japan and seems to have found a niche there.
- James Michael McAdoo
James Michael McAdoo is another player that left Carolina fans longing for one more year. After declaring for 2014 draft following his junior year, McAdoo went undrafted but latched on with the Golden State Warriors. Pretty good timing. McAdoo would go on to win a D-League Championship with the Warriors in 2015 to pair with a NBA championship in the same year. He would stay with the Warriors where he played sparingly the next two years while adding another ring, before signing with the 76ers. He spent most of this past season in the G-League before deciding to play with Auxilium Torino in Italy for the 2018-19 season. He also made it to the championship for The Basketball Tournament a few days ago where his squad lost to Overseas Elite.
- Tyler Hansbrough
Psycho T, as he is affectionately known as, still holds a special place in the majority of Carolina fans hearts almost a decade after his national championship run. As one of the most decorated UNC and collegiate basketball players ever, Hansbrough was drafted 13th overall in the 2009 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers where he played for the next four seasons. On the Pacers, Hansbrough was a solid contributor who flashed potential while helping Indiana make it to the Eastern Conference Finals in both 2014 and 2015. However Tyler found himself in Toronto for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons where his contributions were diminished by an infamous scuffle with Metta World Peace. He then played an unmemorable season for the Charlotte Hornets in 15-16 before playing in the G-League for the 2017 season. Understandably wanting a larger role to put his skills on display again, Hansbrough signed with the Guangzhou Long-Lions in China where he averaged over 20 points and almost 10 rebounds a game. Here’s to hoping that Psycho T can continue to resurrect his career.
- Marcus Paige
The man, the myth, the legend: Marcus Paige. Famously known for having ice in his veins (ask Louisville, NC State and... Villanova...), Paige became a highly decorated and beloved player synonymous with everything Carolina over his four seasons in Chapel Hill. It was a bit surprising that he wasn’t selected earlier than 55th overall to a guard-heavy Jazz team in the 2016 draft. The 2016-17 season found him playing in the D-League before signing a two-way contract with the Hornets after the season. After hitting yet another game winner and averaging over 15 points a game, the Hornets released him. The 2018 season will see Paige playing in Serbia with KK Partizan. As a huge Marcus Paige fan, I hope to see him succeed here and find a home back in the NBA soon.