Well then. I didn’t see that coming.
Yesterday afternoon, the news broke that freshman point guard Jeremiah Francis plans to enter the transfer portal. This announcement is coming off of the heels of what was a turbulent season for both Francis and North Carolina, as he was one of many who fought injuries all season long in a rare losing season for the program. Francis joins Brandon Huffman as the second Tar Heel to announce their plans to transfer.
Following the announcement, I had a lot of thoughts rush through my head. One question of course was why, and it wasn’t long after the announcement that Inside Carolina released a story about how Francis’ decision, and here’s what he had to say:
“I am just looking for a new home and a great school academically. Most of all, I just want an opportunity to play.”
There’s no need for a translator in what’s being said here: Francis wants to go to a school that is giving him both the playing time and the education that he is looking for. One could make the argument that after what happened last season Francis would have gotten a decent amount of playing time if he managed to get 100% healthy.
However, it’s easy to see it from what is potentially Francis’ perspective, which is that there’s too many cooks in the kitchen: Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Anthony Harris, Andrew Platek, KJ Smith, and Leaky Black (who we are going to count because he knows the point guard position) all play at one of the guard positions, and there’s a lot of noise that Kerwin Walton could end up joining the list following this weekend. For us it’s easy to look at it and say that it’s a lot of good depth. For a player like Francis, it’s understandable to see it not being a lucrative situation anymore, especially since his health still makes his situation questionable compared the the names listed sans Harris.
So the big question here is what does Jeremiah Francis transferring mean for the team, and more importantly what does it mean when it comes to the recruiting situation? Let’s work our way backwards and first discuss the recruiting situation. With Francis gone, Carolina now has two scholarships available. If we were to assume that Roy Williams will land a commitment from Kerwin Walton, then it may be a situation where the last scholarship doesn’t find a home outside of the program. Walton is Carolina’s last target for the 2020 class, so we may see a walk-on getting the scholarship instead, or Roy Williams may just hold onto the scholarship for the 2021 class. We’ll see which way he goes with it.
As far as the roster goes, things will be in decent shape but it definitely would’ve been preferred that Francis stuck around. He finished the season averaging 3.3 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 16 games, and while those numbers don’t look like much, it’s what he was able to do outside of the stats that hurt. To put it simply: Jeremiah Francis knew Roy Williams’ system. Considering the fact that he played such a little amount of basketball his junior and senior year of high school, what he was able to get done during his freshman year was impressive. Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, and Anthony Harris may be able to run the system well enough and it could be a non-issue, but it would’ve been nice to have that insurance policy without having to potentially pull Leaky Black away from the small forward spot again.
To wrap things up, Jeremiah Francis leaving Carolina hurts quite a bit because he is a great kid, showed a lot of promise as a player, and if we got to see senior year Francis I think we would’ve seen quite the player. However, as we’ve learned over the last couple of months life loves to throw curveballs, and in this situation UNC should be alright as long as we don’t get a repeat of all of the injury issues from the 2019-20 season. Admit it: you missed Seventh Woods quite a bit this past season too. I will miss Francis regardless, but hopefully it’s not a feeling born out of seeing the roster obliterated.
Best of luck to him wherever he ends up next, and I’m sure we will all be pulling for him. Also, for old time’s sake, here’s a piece that Tanya Bondurant and I worked on last year during the NCAA Tournament that featured an interview we got to do with Francis. If you get through it without missing him even more, you may need to get a virtual doctor’s appointment scheduled.
Stay safe, and Go Heels!