There is no secret that when it comes to the 2018 freshmen class for the Tar Heels, the highest amount of hype has revolved around projected top-five NBA lottery pick Nassir Little. There is no doubt that the praise is well-deserved — Little has elevated his game to such a high level within the past year that it’s hard to be anything less than excited for what he can accomplish at the college level. However, he is not the only player that has the potential for success in the NBA, and it may be time to discuss why fellow five-star player Coby White could find a comfortable place in the league once his college days are over.
The most interesting thing about Coby White as he prepares for his college debut, is that Roy Williams has not recruited a point guard like him in quite some time. There are certain boxes that have to be checked when evaluating NBA point guards, even though some can be supplemented by other skillsets: size, traditional point guard skills, and ability to score. When referring to “traditional point guard skills”, the focus is played on ball-handling ability, how good of a passer the player is, and how well the player can see the court. We will take a look at these three areas in order to explain why Coby White just may be the first point guard that UNC has drafted in the first-round since 2012.
Coby White is one of tallest point guards that UNC has recruited since Kendall Marshall arrived on campus back in 2010. White is listed at 6’5 according to 247 Sports, which would give him an inch above Marshall. He also has a size advantage over every other point guard that UNC has had in the Roy Williams era. Here are some examples:
Raymond Felton - 6’1
Jesse Holley - 6’3
Quentin Thomas - 6’3
Bobby Frasor - 6’3
Ty Lawson - 5’11
Marc Campbell - 5’11
Dexter Strickland - 6’3
Marcus Paige - 6’0
Nate Britt - 6’1
Joel Berry II - 6’0
The ironic thing about White’s height, is he is really only trumped in that department by his fellow classmate, Rechon “Leaky” Black, who is a healthy 6’8. Both players should be able to handle some of the taller guards in the ACC, especially when you factor in teams like FSU, who has had sizable rosters over the past few years.
Going back to White specifically, the one thing that may need to change between now and the time he gets drafted is his weight. The most recent information available about his weight lists him at 185 points, which means he has definitely been putting in work at the gym prior to his freshman season (ESPN still has him listed at 165). If he continues to work on his physique, it’ll be hard to foresee a world where he doesn’t have an NBA-ready body by the end of his sophomore year. Here is a disclaimer, however: build-wise he reminds me of current Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, and so needless to say this change isn’t absolutely needed for him to get drafted in the first-round.
Traditional Point Guard Skills
In the ever-growing world of online videos, there is no doubt that everyone has seen all of the mixtapes of the recruits that UNC has acquired. One common thing said about high school mixtapes is that they have to be taken with a grain of salt, and that it isn’t a true representation of how good a player really is. The problem, however, is that this isn’t always true. Sometimes that video makes a player look good, and sometimes the player makes the video look good. Coby White is easily the latter.
There has been no player in this recruiting class that I have followed closer than Coby White, and I can honestly tell you that White is a very dangerous player. His scoring ability is easily his best quality, which we will get to in a moment, but what makes him even more dangerous is how well he can create plays. His passing abilities are pretty impressive, mostly due to how well he can see the court. He is also the kind of player that is going to draw a lot of attention when he has the ball, and he is one of those players with high awareness and has no problems kicking the ball out to an open man.
Finally, the biggest knock on recent point guards from UNC is their ball-handling abilities. Yes, Joel Berry II and Marcus Paige were great college players, and they did more than enough for the Tar Heels to reach back-to-back national championships. However, neither Berry or Paige were great ball-handlers, and this is an area where White really shines. He is a very dangerous player on the ball, and has more than a few tricks up his sleeve when attempting to score. This video should provide solid examples of how dangerous White is:
This aspect of his game should be a surprise to nobody — Coby White is one of the most prolific scorers at the high school level that UNC has ever recruited. This past season he broke he became North Carolina’s all-time scoring leader, eclipsing the previous record of 3,307 points. Previous to breaking the state record, he also broke the scoring record for the John Wall Invitational, which was previously held by former UNC star Donald Williams.
The records honestly speak for themselves, but what is equally impressive is how White has managed to accomplish these feats. What fans will see a lot from him this year is that he loves to attack the basket, and he has a way of creating lanes in the paint that really shouldn’t be there. He also has a really good step-back jumper that he tends to use around the perimeter. Finally, Coby knows how to use his speed in a way that most players take a while figuring out. He plays in the 5th gear a lot, yes, but he also knows how to decelerate to catch a defender sleeping before blowing past them.
If there is one criticism for White’s game, it is that at times he can play a little reckless. He isn’t afraid to attack, which also means that sometimes he gets knocked around sometimes by defenders bigger/stronger than him. While it’s great that this leads to getting to the line more, I still can’t shake off hearing him hit the floor hard this past winter in a game against Garner. Hopefully there will be more rewards to his risks than there are punishments.
When it’s all said and done, whether or not Coby White is a one-and-done player really doesn’t matter. The truth is it would be of great benefit to him to play for UNC at least two years in order to build up his draft stock and work on his game/body. However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that he has all of the tools to not only make it into the NBA, but to have a very solid career. It’s easy to say that UNC point guards typically don’t do well their freshman year, and honestly, there’s a lot of truth to that. However, Coby White isn’t anything like what we’ve seen in the Roy Williams era in a long time. Forget what you’ve known about past recruits; Coby is just built different, and maybe that’s all we really need to know going into November.