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UNC Basketball: Grading the 2020-21 senior class

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Senior Class. The Senior Class!

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Wisconsin at North Carolina Joshua Bickel-USA TODAY Sports

We wrap up this season’s class grades with a look at the outgoing seniors. Absent from the discussion will be Walker Miller and K.J. “Baby Jet” Smith, as Blue Steel hardly got a look-in this year, and their contributions were extremely limited. Hardly fair to give them a grade, good or bad.

That leaves only two team members; Andrew Platek and Garrison Brooks. These two players will leave Chapel Hill with a complicated legacy. Platek was brought to Carolina to provide one specific skill, and he was incredibly inconsistent at it. Garrison Brooks showed some of the most pronounced growth, particularly on the offensive end, in his first three years, that a preseason ACC Player of the Year crown was bestowed upon him, only for the weight of it to crush his skull down to his shoulders.

Neither senior was a “senior leader” that the 2020-21 UNC basketball desperately needed, and both of their minutes may have stunted the growth of certain Carolina underclassmen. I do not say this to disparage either player, I trust that they loved UNC and played their hearts out for Roy Williams. They were just limited and could not raise their level enough to make the Tar Heels a consistent winning basketball club. On to the grades!

Andrew Platek

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Miami-Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Season finish: 3.7 PPG, 1.7 REB, 0.9 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.8 TOV, .394 FG%, .327 3PT%

I believed in Andrew Platek. I defended Andrew Platek. Tar Heel Blog’s managing editor Tanya Bondurant almost fired me for constantly gassing up Andrew Platek, telling our Slack channel, “If Platek can just do X a little better, then UNC will be just fine.” Time ran out, and Platek never became that guy for Carolina.

I thought that with his experience, savvy, and (thanks to empty arenas) less nerves, Platek might become a steady senior hand that Roy Williams could throw into lineups when the offense was a little shaky and needed someone who could drop a proper entry pass or hit a timely three-pointer to steady the ship while the freshmen got some in-your-face coaching. Neither happened. Platek had a nasty habit of driving to the hole and getting blocked at the rim, or turning the ball over after he got too deep and picked up his dribble.

Platek also lacked the confidence to catch a pass on the wing and fire the ball in a quick catch-and-shoot. He always thought about something that slowed him down, and the window was lost forever. The offense never got more space with him on the floor, and ultimately, that, combined with opponents targeting him almost exclusively on defense, led to his decrease in minutes and usage.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Andrew Platek came through for the Tar Heels when they needed him the most at Miami this season. Nobody can take that away from him.

Final Grade: C-

Garrison Brooks

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

Season finish: 10.1 PPG, 6.9 REB, 0.9 AST, 1.4 STL, 1.6 TOV, .469 FG%, .500 3PT%

Garrison did such an admirable job on the doomed 2019-20 team, especially when Cole Anthony was out with his surgically-repaired knee injury. The ACC preseason Player of the Year nod may have been misguided, but enough people believed in him that he won the vote by 48 votes. And why not? Brooks was a second-team All-ACC selection during his junior year and won the ACC’s Most Improved Player Award. With more big bodies to throw in the rotation, his numbers might take a hit, but his efficiency could soar with more rest and support on defense.

Alas, this fantasy never came true. Garrison’s points, rebounds, shooting percentages (except 3PT%, but that was an outlier due to low shot attempts and an insane Senior Night against Duke) all plunged this season. His defense was inconsistent. His body language was terrible at times. Garrison competed, but he couldn’t carry the team, and he was the only player that could reasonably be expected to do so.

Perhaps this was an unfair expectation on the young man. But so too was it unfair when Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered in front of him when he was a young boy. He took what life threw at him and became the Batman. Brooks did not. He was more like Robin, especially when he needed rescuing.

Tar Heel fans hungered to see more lineups with Armando Bacot teamed up with the dynamic freshman posts. With Walker Kessler transferring out and Day’Ron Sharpe about to hit the NBA Draft, we’ll never get to see what could have been. It will be interesting to see Garrison Brooks if he ends up at another school for his free season of eligibility. I hope that all Carolina fans, like myself, wish him good health and good luck.

Final Grade: C+