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UNC Basketball: Who’s in, who’s out, and what’s next

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A quick rundown of all the changes we’ve seen since Hubert Davis took over

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Wake Forest Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Chaotic offseasons are a rarity for UNC basketball. The biggest stories usually involve one or two players who decide to go to the NBA, or analyzing an incoming recruiting class. Every now and then an unexpected transfer sneaks in there to create momentary concern.

That all changed over the last month, as UNC experienced it’s most chaotic sequence of events since the 2000 and 2003 coaching changes. Even then, those events — Roy Williams turning down UNC the first time, and then coming back in 2003 due to a pending player revolt — may not truly compare to what UNC has gone through. Player and parent’s frustrations, transfers, NBA departures, coaching changes and new commitments have defined the past four weeks. Now that the dust has settled (we think), here’s a quick run down of all the personnel changes.

Departures

Coaching Staff

  • Roy Williams retired, taking his 903 wins and three national titles with him.
  • His top assistant Steve Robinson will not be retained on the bench. He was Williams’ right hand man during their entire 18-year stint in Chapel Hill.
  • Former UNC point guard Kendall Marshall will not be coming back to his role as the Director of Recruiting.

Players

  • Garrison Brooks recently announced he’ll use his free COVID year to play one season at Mississippi State. His father is an assistant coach on the Bulldogs’ staff, and Brooks originally committed to the program in high school before flipping to UNC.
  • Andrew Platek is expected to graduate and has not announced any intentions to continue playing college basketball.
  • Sterling Manley will graduate and has entered the transfer portal. Afterr injuries derailed a promising career while in Chapel Hill, he will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • KJ Smith, via his Instagram page, offered thanks to the UNC program. Originally a walk-on from Pacific, Smith spent four years with the Heels. He has not announced any plans to continue playing collegiate ball.
  • Walker Miller, a four-year walk-on and brother of former UNC shooting guard Wes Miller, entered his name in the transfer portal. Like Brooks, he will seek to play one more season as a graduate transfer thanks to the free year of eligibility due to COVID.
  • Day’Ron Sharpe declared for the NBA draft and is not expected to return. There is no consensus on his current draft position, where he is often projected as a late-first or early second draft pick.
  • Walker Kessler will transfer to Auburn.

Returnees

Coaching Staff

  • Hubert Davis takes over the reigns of the best basketball program in the nation. A former player under Dean Smith, NBA-veteran, and assistant coach under Roy Williams, Davis certainly has the pedigree. We discussed our thoughts on his hiring earlier this week.
  • Sean May slides over to a seat on the bench from the Director of Basketball Operations to a full-fledged assistant coach. This means May can now actually actively recruit and provide on-the-floor coaching during practice and games.
  • Brad Frederick will remain on the bench as an assistant coach. He has been on the UNC bench since 2013-14, where he originally served as the Direction of Basketball Operations. In 2017, he was named an assistant coach, and took over JV head coach duties in 2019.
  • Eric Hoots takes over as the Director of Basketball Operations.
  • Jonas Sahratian will remain the director of strength and conditioning.
  • Doug Halverson, the head athletic trainer, will also remain on the staff.

Players (non-scholarship players in italics)

As of right now, there are only seven scholarship players currently returning to UNC. One of those is Ryan McAdoo who held the rotating 13th scholarship last season. Below are the returnees by “position”, while acknowledging we do not know what Davis’ offense will look like and some players can play multiple positions.

  • Center: None
  • Power Forward: None
  • Small Forward: Leaky Black, Puff Johnson, Ryan McAdoo, Duwe Farris
  • Shooting Guard: Kerwin Walton, Anthony Harris
  • Point Guard: Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Creighton Lebo

New Guys

Coaching Staff:

  • Jeff Lebo will join the staff as an assistant coach, presumably as Davis’ top assistant. Lebo also played for Dean Smith in the late ‘80s, and brings 18 seasons of head coaching experience at Tennessee Tech, UT-Chattanooga, Auburn, and East Carolina.
  • Jackie Manuel joins as the director of team and player development, after spending the past season in a similar role for UNC’s women’s team. Manuel also brings nine years of professional playing experience and eight additional years of college coaching experience. He spent four years on Wes Miller’s staff at UNC-Greensboro, one season at Valparaiso, and three seasons at UNC-Wilmington under former UNC assistant C.B McGrath.

Players:

  • Dontrez Styles, a four-star power forward out of Kinston, NC, committed to the Heels last August. He was the first commit for the 2021 class and has remained firm in that decision through the coaching change.
  • D’Marco Dunn, a four-star shooting guard out of Fayetteville, NC, followed Styles by committing last September. He has also remained committed to the Heels.
  • Justin McKoy was Davis’ first “recruit”, after hitting the transfer portal. McKoy spent two seasons at UVA, appearing in 33 total games. Most likely a power/hybrid forward, he has three years of eligibility remaining.
  • Brady Manek became the newest addition for next year, after committing on Friday. After spending four seasons at Oklahoma, Manek enters UNC as a graduate transfer with one year of eligibility. He averaged double-digits points all four seasons and is a career 37.5% shooter from three on 628 attempts.

What’s Next?

  • Armando Bacot announced plans to test the NBA waters. Not currently projected as an NBA draft pick, he is most likely using the process to gather feedback before returning. However, nothing is official until it is, so his future status is technically unknown.
  • With the addition of McKoy and Manek, it’s clear that Davis is looking for a more new-era stretch-four style of forward.
  • Davis has been adamant that the program needs more shooters. With the exception of Manek, they have not aggressively pursued players with that talent, specifically on the wing.
  • For planning considerations, UNC could lose four players next offseason as well. Manek will graduate. Leaky Black’s future after four years at UNC is unknown as he can also use a free COVID year of eligibility. Bacot will likely pursue professional opportunities, and a strong season could also see Love enter the NBA draft. That doesn’t include any potential transfers that are not a fit for Davis’ vision.
  • If Bacot comes back, the Heels technically have two scholarships remaining. It remains to be seen if Davis continues the “tradition” of rewarding a walk-on with a free year of college.
  • For all of those reasons, it’s possible the staff shows some patience for a season until they have a better understanding of how the current roster develops.
  • Sitting on two scholarships is highly unlikely, but assuming Davis doesn’t overhaul the entire offense and defense (which is absolutely possible), adding a back-up/project center for next season seems to be the most immediate need. That would leave one scholarship left over for next offseason, giving the staff more time to assess the current squad and allow high school recruiting to return to some semblance of normal.

What actually happens is obviously unknown. Assuming Bacot comes back, next season’s squad returns and welcomes enough talent to improve on this past season. However, any competitiveness for memorable ACC or NCAA success relies on the development of the returning perimeter players and Bacot’s ability to stay engaged for 30 minutes a night.

If Bacot does not come back, we’re going to see how creative and adaptive the new coaching staff really is.