Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. Last week, the first post-season article dealt with what went wrong last season. There is plenty of time right now to dwell on the past, but instead it seems like a great opportunity to look ahead.
The Tar Heel Hangover season recap debate Part II: What are Carolina fans looking forward to the most about 2020-2021?
- Garrison Brooks dominating
Garrison Brooks came into the 2019-2020 season with a reputation as an excellent post defender and a tough player. He was expected to be a good post presence but to largely play a supporting role to Cole Anthony on the perimeter. Instead, he turned into one of the best players on the team.
Brooks’ freshman year was not great. He was one of a handful of young big-men vying for playing time. Occasionally outshone by Sterling Manley, Brooks only logged 14.6 minutes per game averaging 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. His highest scoring output for the year came in the season opener, and his Carolina debut, against Northern Iowa when he went 5-6 from the field and 4-4 from the line for 14 points.
As a sophomore, Brooks fully assumed the starter role. Firmly in the first five for all 36 games, Brooks increased his minutes (23), points (7.9) and rebounds (5.6). Still, he was largely a role player on a team full of stars. Notably, Brooks continued to mostly play out of position. With Luke Maye roaming the floor as a stretch four, Brooks held down the paint as a slightly out-sized five. He did so quite well, but it was starting to become clear that his future was bright.
Looking at his junior year, most prognosticators had Garrison listed as a solid role player. Instead, he was the rock of the team. Brooks persevered through injuries and heartbreaking losses and kept showing up every single game. He was the reliable ray of hope in a disastrous year. As the ironman, Brooks played nearly 35 minutes per game and averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds. He put up 35 points against Georgia Tech, 30 against NC State and 26 at Duke (along with 13 rebounds). In the double overtime loss to Virginia Tech, Brooks had 28 points and 13 rebounds during an unbelievable 48 minutes.
So what will next year hold? With Armando Bacot growing more comfortable in the post, and big recruits on the way, Brooks will get even more time at the four spot. Is a National Player of the Year award possible? Absolutely. 2020-21 could be a historic year for Brooks.
2. The recruiting class
Is this another Fab 5 coming to college basketball? Probably not. The Michigan freshman of that historic class were all starters. Bacot, Brooks, and Leaky Black probably all have starting spots to lose (although Black’s status as a starter is a debate for another day). This assumes that Cole Anthony is going pro and will announce soon.
Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler are both five-star centers that will add much needed depth to the front line. As noted above, their presence will only add to fans’ comfort level of having Brooks play in position. Both are solid interior players that are comfortable around the rim and can rebound.
At the point, Carolina will likely start a freshman for the third year in a row. Caleb Love is a dynamic playmaker who should put up big numbers in Roy Williams’ offense. RJ Davis is a very quick but slightly undersized guard who should cause havoc off of the dribble.
Then there is the 6-7 Puff Johnson. With a sweet shooting stroke and an awesome pedigree, Johnson will look to follow in his brother, Cameron’s, footsteps as a Carolina legend. If he can find the touch from deep, Johnson could prove to be a critical piece of the Tar Heel offense.
This is a class that is absolutely full of potential and they will be exciting from day one.
3. Getting a little revenge
Last season was certainly a hard pill to swallow. There were a lot of streaks broken last year and plenty of conference teams eager to take advantage of the under-manned Heels. That’s the way it goes for a perennial power.
The close losses, last place conference finish, and continuous injuries were a breeding ground of frustration for fans. When thinking ahead to next year, the one thing that is most exciting is the prospect of winning. By a lot of points. On a regular basis.
Sometimes life presents the chance for perspective. All of the country is experiencing that now. Tar Heel fans got a taste of perspective during the last year. This will only make the wins of next year more sweet.
It will be nice for game night to be a celebration again instead of a constant point of dread. It will be great to seek out sports news and highlight reels instead of changing the channel and finding other sites. Most of all, it will be nice to look forward to March.
You make the call!
What is the most exciting and anticipated element of the upcoming season? Is it Garrison Brooks as a rising star? What about the incredible recruiting class? How about getting a little revenge?
Enjoy the debate this week. Feel free to get active in the comments and point out what was missed.
Most of all, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and stay safe.