Last week we started our men’s basketball summer preview series. In true UNC fashion, we kick these off by order of seniority. Garrison Brooks was selected to kick things off for us. Today we’ll continue with Andrew Platek.
2017-18: 7.5 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 0.5 apg, 49.1 FG%, 37.0 3P%, 70.0 FT%
2018-19: 3.7 mpg, 1.1 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 0.2 apg, 46.7 FG%, 33.3 3P%, 50.0 FT%
2019-20: 18.1 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 2.1 rog, 1.4 apg, 36.6 FG%, 22.8 3P%, 60.0 FT%
The pure wing from Guilderland, NY received a massive increase in minutes last season. The typical culprits of injuries, new faces, and inconsistent chemistry throughout the team can all take credit for that increased playing time. The weird roller coaster season saw Platek start nine games and notch a career-high eight rebounds and six assists against Clemson. He also finished with a 2.3 A:T ratio, dishing out 44 assists to 19 turnovers, but never scored in double-digits.
So, with so much inconsistency next season, what can be expected?
There are only two seniors on this year’s team with any significant experience. They are Garrison Brooks and Platek. That’s it. That’s the list. If you want that list to upperclassmen, then add Leaky Black. They are the extent of experienced returning upperclassmen.
K.J Smith, last year’s 13th scholarship recipient, averaged 6.2 minutes and 0.9 points. Walker Miller averaged 2.7 minutes in 23 appearances. This year’s 13th scholarship recipient, Ryan McAdoo, made nine appearances last season. Sterling Manley hasn’t played in 18 months. Brandon Huffman transferred.
If you don’t think that Andrew Platek is going to see the court for significant stretches, you are being willfully delusional.
Some fans will look at the four freshman guards joining Platek, Leaky Black, and Anthony Harris on the perimeter and wonder where Platek fits. As a true shooting guard with minimal ball-handling skills and lacking athleticism or size for the small forward position, he’s likely limited to one position. Listed at 6’4, it’s possible he earns time at the three, but any appearances there will be brief or an in-case-of-emergency-break-glass scenario.
That seems like a disadvantage, but should help him grow into a more specialized role that this team will need. In fact, it may be preferable to have a level of consistency in the lineup as the freshmen get acclimated. No matter how highly ranked this incoming class might be, freshmen are freshmen and they need seniors to provide guidance.
Finding a niche
At this point, it’s fair to assume that Platek won’t turn into a dependable double-digit scorer. For various reasons, that talent has not manifested for him at this level. That’s fine. Whatever he can put in the hoop on any given night should be appreciated, but not expected. Points will come from other positions.
However, in his fourth year, nobody else knows the roles and expectations of UNC’s wings like Platek. Understanding both the offensive and defensive systems brings a different kind of production. Those 44 assists last season weren’t all a product of Platek breaking his man down, drawing the defense to him, and then finding an open man. Many (Most? All?) of those were in the run of play via transition or within UNC’s natural offense.
Almost all his success came from being in the right place or making the correct read. Kenny Williams and Brandon Robinson, though better all-around players, are recent Tar Heels who also filled that role. Williams’ 3.5 assists per game as a senior didn’t come from him running the point playing a Theo Pinson-like role as a facilitator on the wing. They came from being surrounded by exceptional shooters and making key reads.
Regardless, the truth is that Platek was rarely a true liability on the court. Limited, yes, but he clearly understands his role. If Platek can continue (or improve upon) that 2.3 A:T ratio and grab a few more rebounds, while serving as a steadying presence to direct his younger teammates, he’ll be a regular presence on the court.
Platek entered college with the reputation as a sharp shooter from deep. After two seasons of solid shooting on a small sample size (35.7%, 15-42), that reputation took a nosedive last season. Hitting a mere 13 of 57 attempts from deep, his inefficiency was one of the more curious developments. Regularly lauded by teammates and staff for his work ethic and shooting ability, it’s fair to wonder if Platek is one of those players whose practice habits don’t transfer to game success.
There are numerous possible explanations for the dip. Platek played on a hobbled ankle throughout last season UNC, including sitting out for two games. The new three-point line introduced last season may have impacted his delivery. Being forced into extended playing time with lesser talent put him in unfamiliar positions from his first two seasons. A lack of other shooters on the team denied him the space or ability to get clean looks and/or exploit gaps in the defense. Pick any one of those reasons, and you’ll probably be correct.
Typically, a player who struggled like that might try to expand their offensive game, but that is unlikely to happen with Platek. Last year, 46.1% of his field goal attempts were from three and that was a career low. He’s going to fire away, with little interest in attacking and finishing at the rim or in the paint. However, even a pedestrian 35% shooter is enough to prevent defenses from sagging into the lane and denying entry passes. If Platek can fix those shooting woes, and that is a big unknown, he’ll justify 14-18 minutes per game on the wing.