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UNC Basketball: Downtown

I’m not talking about Franklin Street

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

You might have read the title of this piece and thought I’d be off on another of my tangents, talking about how wonderful it was to grow up in Chapel Hill and spend time on Franklin Street; dropping into Sutton’s for an orangeade on a warm summer evening, or skipping first period in high school to go get a late breakfast at Breadmen’s. Downtown Chapel Hill is an easy place to love, and an easier place to write about, but I’m not returning to that particular (Old) Well today.

It’s hard to find parking on Franklin Street (and I’m bad at parallel parking, so I have even fewer options than most functioning adults). It’s really hard to find a spot close to whichever bar, restaurant, or store you’re hoping to visit. It’s harder still to find the bottom of the net from a little over 22 feet out.

It’s not easy at any level. I should know; as a vertically-challenged young man, my options were limited in terms of scoring opportunities. I would run myself ragged, looking for screens and pick-and-pop opportunities, only to rise up and release a ball that would clank off of the back iron with the kind of thud that could make any wannabe shooting guard start looking to pass. It was a difficult shot at the Bible Church court throughout high school school; it was a difficult shot in the Student Recreation Center in Boone; it’s a difficult shot in an empty gym. To shoot a high percentage from beyond the arc is a notable achievement, and one to be further celebrated in a post-Curry world in which the triple has become more and more emphasized.

Even without reliving my personal follies on the court, it’s easy to tell how important an outside threat is. Forcing a team to respect the shooter opens opposing defenses up (I’ve heard); allowing the bigs more room to operate down low and opening cutting lanes for guards. When someone can’t miss from downtown, the whole game is simplified.

It’s so nice to have a credible threat from the land of extra points. Kerwin Walton is currently shooting nearly 42% from long range, a mark that only Anthony Harris touched last season (in an unfortunately small sample size; 3-7 in just five games), and every other Tar Heel on the 2019-2020 team missed by around five percentage points (next highest was Brandon Robinson at just 36.9%). For reference, this guy was only a 35% three-point shooter in his one season in light blue.

I’d be remiss not to mention, in this celebration of Carolina shooters, that Anthony Harris is again leading the team in three-point percentage, shooting a striking 50% from outside. If this trend holds, I promise I’ll write a whole post about his shooting. For now, though, he’s only 2-4 since returning, a mark he shares with fellow sharpshooter Garrison Brooks.

Basically, what I’m saying is this: it’s great to get back some semblance of outside shooting, I like watching Kerwin Walton play basketball, and the Heels need to let Garrison Brooks work more from downtown.