Last year, it took until the end of May for everyone to know exactly who would be lacing up their shoes and wearing the “North Carolina” on their chest for the 2018-19 season. The main reason for this was Luke Maye, who went through the NBA process and then decided to come back. It still was a change from 2017 where it took until summer for the team to be set thanks to Cam Johnson’s decision.
This year, Carolina was faced with the graduation of Maye, Johnson, Kenny Williams, plus the early departure of Coby White and Nassir Little. Then, Seventh Woods announced he was transferring, and there was real potential of a summer even longer than 2017 to fill these holes as only two players had committed.
In the span of two weeks, a summer of uncertainty is now certain, as a quick set of announcements have filled out the Tar Heel roster. This was underscored by one of the recruits turned Head of Recruiting on Thursday:
Done.— Armando Bacot Jr. (@iget_buckets35) May 2, 2019
With that, the 2019-2020 Tar Heels are set. Over the next few days we are going to take a look at those who will be suiting up, and doing something we haven’t had to do for a few seasons: speculate over the starting lineup. Today, we talk about those who are coming back.
The 6’4” Douglasville, GA native should see his minutes dramatically increase as the lone senior with experience on next season’s squad. Robinson played a career high 11.8 minutes per game this past season, and when he was on the floor, he was effective. The most eye-popping stat: 23-50 behind the arc for a whopping 46%. He also managed to average 1.4 assists per game and had thirteen steals. With the departure of Kenny Williams and Cam Johnson, plus the leadership void, Robinson will get ample opportunity to step up and lead.
The milliner extraordinaire played a grand total of 27 minutes in 2019, and with the influx of players coming in it’s doubtful that number will go up next season. Still, there’s something to be said for the experience Rush brings in practice, especially with a new point guard to break in. Coach Roy Williams clearly appreciates his contributions with the awarding of a scholarship for the former walk-on.
The Apex native wouldn’t see the court unless Rush saw the court, and as such he only racked up 28 minutes all season. He’ll be another valuable piece in practice to help break in the new players as they acclimate to the North Carolina way.
The 2019-2020 season should see a huge leap for Brooks. For the past two seasons, Brooks has had to hold down the fort playing out of position at the five. He struggled his first year, gradually seeing his minutes reduced and was benched in favor of the “small ball” lineup. Last season he again started down low, but showed he had made a jump. He won numerous defensive player of the game awards from the staff, went from 14.6 to 23 minutes a game, nearly doubled his rebound rate, and quickly put to rest any talk that his sophomore campaign would be a repeat of the year before. Now, with Luke Maye graduating and Armando Bacot coming in, Brooks will be able to play his natural “four” position a lot more, which could result in another seismic jump.
The 6’11” Ohio native never seemed to get his feet fully under him in 2019. While some thought he may start over Brooks to begin the season, the big man didn’t see his minutes increase that much in the first part of the year. Then, right before ACC play began, knee soreness benched Manley for the bulk of the season. Manley wouldn't play in the calendar year of 2019 until March 1st, and only played a minute or two when he came in. The hope is that the knees will be healthy for next year, and with support down low now, Manley will improve both in practice and in games.
The third big man of the 2017 freshman class, Huffman has seen the least time on the court of the three. The center saw a total of 67 minutes on the court last season, mostly in mop-up detail. Huffman, however, is a valuable presence on the team, as his face is one cameras will cut to first when one of his teammates make a play. Big men also develop at a different rate, and his size in practice should help make Bacot prepare for the college level better.
Platek came into last season with a chance to make a mark and show a Luke Maye-like explosion. Unfortunately, the guard never seemed to improve to the point that he could get more minutes as the season wound on. Platek only attempted fifteen threes all year, making five, and actually saw his minutes cut in half versus last year. With the talent coming in at his position, he’ll likely again struggle to get time on the court without a huge leap shown in practice.
The brother of UNCG coach and Tar Heel alum Wes, Walker Miller was a solid member of Blue Steel. The most he played was four minutes at the end of the Wake Forest blowout, and it’s unlikely he’ll see more this season. Another practice pillar, Miller should help the incoming big men adjust to the Carolina system.
Smith brings two season of experience playing point guard in practice to the table for the next season. There isn’t any expectation that the son of UNC legend Kenny will get significant time on the court, but with the departures of both Coby White and Seventh Woods, Smith is one of the few players who knows how to play point under Williams. This should help Cole Anthony acclimate to life in college a little better.
Rechon “Leaky” Black
Black was the third member of the freshman class that took Chapel Hill by storm, and will be the only one who stays. Leaky was a Swiss Army Knife for the Tar Heels, as he played point in high school, but his height allowed him to play every position on the floor except the five. Roy Williams used that versatility, and Black had blossomed to the point where he was going to be the backup to Coby White until an injury sidelined him for the majority of the remaining season. Black missed the majority of the ACC season, seeing the floor again at the NCAA Tournament. Thanks to White’s and Woods’ departures, he has a great chance of being the backup point guard, and his versatility should allow him to see minutes again this season.
McAdoo is the third Tar Heel with family connections to basketball alumni. Ryan is Bob McAdoo’s son, and spent his first year at UNC sitting out his mandatory redshirt season after transferring from Florida Gulf Coast. The 6’5” forward will have a tough time breaking through the log jam in front of him, but with so many players coming in, who knows.
Tomorrow, we take a look at the plethora of new Tar Heels coming in.