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UNC Basketball: Grading the 2020-21 Sophomore Class

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These two players will be critical pieces of the team next season.

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Let’s address this right at the beginning: Yes, Anthony Harris is classified as a redshirt freshman. But on the other hand, Harris was part of the North Carolina Tar Heels’ 2019 recruiting class with Armando Bacot, Cole Anthony, and Jeremiah Francis. Anthony went 15th overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, while Francis transferred to New Mexico. And thus, Harris and Bacot are the only pair of scholarship players from the Class of 2023 (Duwe Farris is a sophomore walk-on who spent last year with the JV team).

Armando Bacot

Wake Forest v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Armando Bacot 2020-21 Stats

Games Played Games Started Minutes Per Game Field Goal Made Field Goal Attempts Field Goal Percentage Free Throws Made Free Throws Attempts Free Throw Percentage Total Points Points Per Game Offensive Rebounds Defensive Rebounds Total Rebounds Rebounds Per Game Blocks
Games Played Games Started Minutes Per Game Field Goal Made Field Goal Attempts Field Goal Percentage Free Throws Made Free Throws Attempts Free Throw Percentage Total Points Points Per Game Offensive Rebounds Defensive Rebounds Total Rebounds Rebounds Per Game Blocks
29 28 22.8 137 218 .628 84 127 .661 358 12.3 92 135 227 7.8 26

The big guy made a positive impact this season.

Bacot earned Tar Heel Blog’s Player of the Year Award this season, and for good reason. He was Carolina’s leader in scoring, scoring average, field goal makes, field goal percentage, free throws made, free throw attempts, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, rebounding average, and blocks.

When looking at how he compared to other players in the league, he led the ACC in offensive rebound percentage and total rebound percentage. Bacot was second in the ACC in field goal makes, offensive rebounds, total rebounds, and free throw attempts.

As we detailed extensively, Bacot got better as the season progressed. He was a key contributor in UNC’s wins. In Carolina’s losses, he was either nonexistent, or the only player carrying the team.

This is also where Bacot can make the biggest strides next season. It was well-documented that Bacot received some halftime motivation by head coach Roy Williams several times. It was reported, by Bacot himself, that Williams called Bacot “soft” during the halftime of their ACC Tournament game against Virginia Tech. With UNC down three at the break, Bacot responded with stretch of 10 straight points in the second half. The final bucket of those 10 put Carolina up 10 against VT.

Does this situation remind you of another Tar Heel in recent memory?

Brice Johnson was often pushed by Williams during his career at UNC. After a Third-Team All-ACC season in 2015, Johnson was a Consensus First-Team All-American and a member of the All-ACC First-Team on a Carolina team that was seconds away from a National Championship.

Bacot was named to the All-ACC Third Team as a sophomore. Can he follow Johnson’s trajectory in his following year?

Final Grade: A

Anthony Harris

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Harris 2020-21 Stats

Games Played Games Started Minutes Per Game Field Goal Made Field Goal Attempts Field Goal Percentage Three Pointers Made Three Pointers Attempted Three Point Percentage Free Throws Made Free Throws Attempts Free Throw Percentage Total Points Points Per Game Offensive Rebounds Defensive Rebounds Total Rebounds Rebounds Per Game Assists Turnovers Steals
Games Played Games Started Minutes Per Game Field Goal Made Field Goal Attempts Field Goal Percentage Three Pointers Made Three Pointers Attempted Three Point Percentage Free Throws Made Free Throws Attempts Free Throw Percentage Total Points Points Per Game Offensive Rebounds Defensive Rebounds Total Rebounds Rebounds Per Game Assists Turnovers Steals
16 0 10.9 19 43 0.442 4 16 0.25 9 17 0.529 51 3.2 6 10 16 1 20 11 9

Harris has faced adversity the past few years with injuries to both his knees.

After just five games played last year, Harris torn his right ACL against Yale during the final game of the 2019 calendar year. After he dressed, but didn’t play, against Syracuse on January 12, 2021, questions about his return and the role he would play began to swirl.

Williams answered a lot about Harris’s status, but finally added the period to the end of the sentence with this:

It’s going to take time. I’ve told you we’re not gonna surprise anybody and drop him down from a frickin parachute into a game. He’s taking his steps, but again, you guys think about how you’d be, some of you work out, some of you don’t work out. But if you don’t do anything for a frickin year, you’re not going to get into the Boston Marathon.

And for the rest of the season, Harris was not in the lineup logging 30 minutes a game. Yet, his impact was immediate.

Harris returned on January 16, 2021 against Florida State. In just eight minutes on the floor, he made both shot attempts, including a three, and added three assists. In 16 games played, his high was 15 minutes on the floor. It was evident that the coaching staff did not want to over do it, as Harris readjusted to game speed and just the physical toll of basketball on his knees.

When Harris stepped on the court, the effort across the lineup, especially on the defensive end, was improved. When he was knocked down shots, UNC was much, much better. Although he did not log enough time to be counted among the league leaders, his 1.82 assist to turnover ratio would have ranked in the top ten of the ACC, showing how well the ball moved when he was on the floor.

There was some inconsistency with his offensive game, but that is to be expected coming off such a serious injury and only playing limited minutes.

Although there was a smaller sample size, it is clear that Carolina is a better team with Harris on it. Harris still has some work to do, especially at the free throw line and beyond the arc. However, more practice and more time at full speed will help him a lot heading into next season.

Final Grade: B