This week the Tar Heel Blog staff will be handing out postseason awards to wrap up the season that gave us a little bit of everything, for better or worse. We’ll cover everything from Defensive Player of the Year to Sixth Man of the Year and everything we can think of in between. Today we kick things off with our biggest surprise of the year.
While things have gotten a bit weird in the last couple days, the recruiting class North Carolina brought in ahead of the 2020-21 season was a really good one. It finished second in the country according to 247 Sports. Four of the six players (Caleb Love, Day’Ron Sharpe, Walker Kessler, and R.J. Davis) were in the top 50 in the country. Another (Puff Johnson) had the notability of being the brother of a recent UNC star in Cam Johnson. That left the sixth.
Kerwin Walton came into this season as the most unheralded in the class. He was ranked 130th in his class. He leaves this season as our Freshman of the Year.
Walton was quiet early on in the season, only scoring in two of the first six games while playing 10 minutes per game. Then came the Kentucky game. Against the Wildcats, Walton had a breakout performance, scoring 13 points, while going a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. After UNC lost their next game, Walton was inserted into the starting lineup, where he remained a fixture for the rest of the season.
His shooting fairly quickly became an integral part of Carolina’s success. When Walton scored more than 10 points, the team was 9-2. The only two losses both came to a Florida State team that is still currently in the NCAA Tournament.
His best game of the season probably came when the Tar Heels blew out Louisville and Walton scored 19 points while going 5-7 from three. His most important game probably came in the home game against Florida State. It wasn’t his most efficient game as he went just 3-10. However, two of those three came in the second half, as did three assists as Carolina rallied for a win that likely cemented their place in the NCAA Tournament.
His final averages for the season were 8.2 points, 1.8 assists, and 1.7 rebounds per game. The most impressive part of his season was the percentage of threes he knocked down. Walton shot 42% from three on nearly five attempts per game. If that’s what he did as a freshman and the lone good shooter on a fairly middling team, it could be very fun to watch him develop.
Things for UNC seem to be in a bit of a weird state right now. One thing we can hopefully continue to look forward too is how Walton develops after a very fun freshman season.