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UNC Basketball: What Walker Kessler’s commitment could tell us about 2020

Roy Williams’ most recent commit may have caused a seismic shift in what the program looks like next year.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: JULY 20 adidas Summer Championships Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Roy Williams and his staff managed to land a commitment from 2020 five-star center Walker Kessler Sunday night. His commitment came as a surprise to many of us, if for no other reason than the fact that he was considered a heavy favorite to attend Duke. His commitment goes to show that recruiting is and always will be a weird entity to navigate, but regardless, the Heels landed exactly what they needed to help reignite their front court next season, especially since we don’t know who we will actually have left.

With that said, there are a few things that Kessler’s commitment may tell us about the team next season, including one hypothetical scenario that may not sit well with fans. Let’s take a look at three things that his commitment tells us not only about the 2020 recruiting class, but about the 2020-21 Tar Heels as a whole.

Armando Bacot may be a OAD player

When looking at what the potential roster could be next year, there’s at least one player that we should likely factor out of the equation. UNC freshman Armando Bacot was a five-star prospect coming out of high school, and the way that everything is playing out so far for the class that succeeds the 2019-20 season, it’s likely that he will explore the NBA waters following his freshman year.

While I have my own personal opinions on whether or not this is a good idea, let’s refer to the tale of the tape: more and more players have made the jump to the NBA after one year of college for various reasons, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Bacot was next. When analyzing the situation, I constantly go back to Wendell Carter Jr. with Duke. He was the first big man to commit to Coach K’s team, and then Marvin Bagley came in and everything Carter did essentially was drowned out. Carter could have used one more year, and likely would’ve made this past season’s Duke team absolutely ridiculous. However, he made the jump to the NBA, and that was that.

Is it guaranteed that Bacot could do the same thing with two five-star centers coming in next year? Absolutely not, largely because of how unpredictable college basketball in the one-and-done era is. However, it may be a reality that fans should at least prepare for in case it does happen. For the sake of the team, let’s hope that isn’t the case.

A transfer is very possible

Continuing along the theme of players making their exit from the program, there’s a reality that will exist whether Bacot stays or leaves. Should he leave, for instance, the depth chart of big men looks something like this:

  • Garrison Brooks
  • Sterling Manley
  • Brandon Huffman
  • Walker Miller
  • Day’Ron Sharpe
  • Walker Kessler

At first glance, this depth chart is bananas. In a world where Bacot does stay, it would possibly give the team their deepest, most talented front court that they’ve had in the Roy Williams era. Once you begin to break down where the minutes go, things get a bit hairy.

One of the likely scenarios looks like this: Garrison Brooks will start at power forward, and either Sharpe or Kessler starts at center. Whichever center doesn’t start the game will serve as the immediate backup, and unless Roy Williams is a stickler for not having someone 6’10 or taller at the power forward spot, Brandon Huffman is the next option. Walker Miller, while I would love to see him get more minutes, will likely only play in the final minutes of blowout games. This leaves one player that could or could not stick around, and his name is Sterling Manley.

The issue with Manley that I foresee is that he has had a hard time staying healthy, but also he could be the starter at various other Power Five programs, and could be the starter for the Tar Heels this year. Without having seen much from his sophomore campaign, it’s really hard to figure out just what exactly we should expect from him even when he’s 100% healthy. He could be the starter this year, play a huge role in the team’s success, and make it very hard on Williams’ decision-making when calibrating his starting lineup next year. However, if he doesn’t develop much this season, it may be easier for Williams to look to Sharpe and Kessler to be “the guys” he relies on.

We hate to see transfers at Carolina, but given what we just dealt with in regards to Seventh Woods, it’s best to keep this scenario in the back of our minds.

The 2020 class is trending up

Finally, let’s discuss the potential for next year’s class. Recruiting analysts from both 247Sports and Rivals felt like going into the fall evaluation period the Tar Heels were in boom or bust mode when it came to the 2020 class. Roy Williams needed something big to happen, and I can’t think of many other things bigger than landing a commitment from Walker Kessler.

Kessler’s commitment could be the start of something huge for the 2020 recruiting class. Caleb Love visited campus with Kessler this past weekend, who just cut his list down to Missouri and UNC earlier today. This weekend will also have a lot of recruits on campus for Late Night as well as the Clemson game. Cade Cunningham, Paolo Banchero, Day’Ron Sharpe, Greg Brown, and Ziaire Williams all are scheduled to be in attendance, with Cunningham and Banchero being the highest-ranked players on UNC’s recruiting board for the 2020 and 2021 classes, respectively. Earl Timberlake, R.J. Davis, and Puff Johnson also have visits planned for October and November, and so it will be an extremely busy fall for UNC’s staff.

Now that the Heels have landed their second five-star recruit, the sky is the limit for the rest of this class. It’s no secret that top-rated recruits like to go where they can win, and also where there is enough talent that matches their own. To reference the Avengers, Roy Williams may or may not have found the Infinity Gauntlet, and given his most recent history of landing top-ranked recruits, there’s nothing standing in his way in making this one of his best-ranked recruiting classes in years.

In short, Kessler’s commitment could make any combination of what was mentioned here happen, or none of it could happen at all. It’s highly likely that at least one scenario transpires, and we can only hope that whatever does happen doesn’t stand in the way of getting the Tar Heels back to the Final Four, and hopefully two steps further.