It’s the offseason for men’s basketball, which means rumors, theories, and questions run rampant. How will the new recruits adjust to college? How will transfers make the transition to a new team and system? Which returning player will make a surprise leap and become a key contributor?
We have absolutely zero of those answers.
However, ESPN’s Paul Biancardi was a guest on the Screen the Screener podcast last week (@StheSPodcast). The podcast, hosted by Gus Kearns (@ckearns12) and Mike Randle (@RandleRant), is an unfiltered look into all things college hoops. Whereas most podcasts focus on the top programs or biggest storylines, Mike and Gus also give equal attention to low and mid-major programs. Last week’s podcast was no different.
After some chit chat about the NBA draft, they asked Biancardi for some insight into recent UNC commit, Christian Keeling. The 6’4 shooting guard is joining the Heels as a graduate transfer with one year of eligibility. He played his first three seasons for Charleston Southern, a low-major in the Big South Conference, and will look to be a key contributor next season.
This site has addressed what UNC could be getting when Keeling arrives on campus. Al Hood mentioned him last week, Brandon Anderson (unofficially) penciled him into next season’s starting lineup, and I addressed some questions when he committed. Brian Geisinger, of ACCSports.com also gave a video scouting analysis.
The problem is a lot of these analyses are conjecture based on limited film and stats on paper. Some are semi-educated guesses. Others are just fun internet debates. It’s hard to find people who have actually spent time watching Keeling up close for the past three years and can speak to his abilities.
Enter Paul Biancardi.
Biancardi, ESPN’s National Recruiting Director for Boys High School Basketball, also works as a color analyst for the network. The Big South Conference is one of the conferences that he is regularly assigned to. Thus, he has watched Keeling for three years. Few national figures have had as much exposure to Keeling as Biancardi has.
When asked about Keeling’s impact, he said,
“Keeling is a really dynamic guard, when you really peel back the layers. I love the way he shoots it, but I absolutely love the way he handles the ball and can score the ball. He’s a guy who can get experienced buckets. He’s just not a guy in transition. He’s just not a guy who can just drive it to the basket and use his body to score.”
Those comments are encouraging. Biancardi didn’t really elaborate on those ball-handling skills, but I didn’t take them to mean that UNC will have another true ball-handler in the backcourt or a secondary point guard. Instead, he implies that Keeling can basically create his own shot and isn’t a one-dimensional or opportunistic scorer. His next comments back up that belief.
“He can shoot the three pretty well. He shot it pretty well last year at 38%. In fact, that’s very, very good. He’s been a good shooter over time, but a bucket getter.”
And there it is. A “bucket getter”. Combined with the opening comments, it’s clear that Biancardi thinks that UNC is getting a multi-dimensional scorer. Again, the context to these comments is that Biancardi has been able to watch Keeling up close for three seasons. He continued,
“I also like the way he rebounds. He’s 6’4+, gets almost 7 rebounds a game. He’ll get you three assists.”
Alright. Nothing groundbreaking. Just confirming what the stat sheet says. So, will that translate to the ACC?
Biancardi doesn’t answer definitively, ending his analysis with this:
“He’s a proven commodity at the mid-major level with, I think, a chance to grow in the game. And, you know, coming out of high school, he just wasn’t ready to get recruited by those higher levels. It’s almost like you go two-years in a farm system. You develop. You improve. And then the high-major programs start to look at you, and you start to look at high-major programs.”
The key phrase here is “proven commodity”. It’s difficult to find consistent production at the college level. Some guys are late bloomers or need time to develop their skills and learn the game. At Charleston Southern, Keeling was able to do just that and has produced on a nightly basis against college competition. Truthfully, that’s arguably a better risk to take for one immediate impact season than chasing most one-and-done high school talent.
Admittedly, there isn’t a ringing endorsement that Keeling will light the world on fire. Anyone expecting him to match his production in the Big South will likely be disappointed. That doesn’t mean that he won’t contribute or provide talent at a position loaded with questions as the summer sessions begin in a few weeks.
Biancardi said later in the interview that sometimes players just needs some time to grow and develop. Combine that development with his scoring abilities, and Keeling should be ready to go once the ACC schedule kicks off.*
*The real ACC schedule. Not the forced opening game against Notre Dame being played as a shameful plug for the ACC Network.