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The Debate: Transfers wanted

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What UNC Basketball transfer was the most impactful?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to The Debate. We are back! Once again, our editors have exercised poor content judgment and allowed yet another summer of conversational fun. As season 3 of this article kicks off, those who took the over are winners.

Each week, this article presents a topic for debate. Whether in the comments section, on the golf course, or around the weekend game table (with proper social distancing of course), the goal is to provide enough background that either side could be a winner. In order to facilitate the discourse, a suggested beverage pairing is also included. So speak up, mix it up, and drink up.

College basketball fans are in the midst of a truly bizarre offseason. With the NCAA’s change to the transfer rules, the portal is packed with talented players looking for a fresh start. Teams are experiencing significant roster turnover, which allows for the possibility of a quick rebuild.

Transfers have always been a part of the game, just not to this extent. Historically, it is the graduate transfers that normally headline the summer season. These players tend to be complimentary pieces who can fill holes on a roster. Occasionally, however, transfers can have a huge impact. This seems like a good topic for a debate.

The Debate for the week of April 23: What incoming UNC transfer had the biggest impact?

Point: Cameron Johnson

Johnson was the unusual graduate transfer with two years of eligibility remaining. After signing with Pittsburgh, he suffered a knee injury in his freshman season and received a medical redshirt. An outstanding student, Johnson was able to graduate at the end of his redshirt junior year and transfer with immediate eligibility. He completed his final year at Pitt averaging nearly 12 points per game in over 33 minutes of action per contest while shooting over 41% from three.

Johnson was slated to fill the heroic shoes of Justin Jackson, who had just departed for the NBA. Both were tall wing players with an exceptional shooting touch so this looked like a natural fit. Johnson’s time in Carolina, however, got off to a rocky start as another knee injury led to minor surgery and missing 10 games. It was apparent that the injury lingered and his numbers took a dip. He averaged just over 34% from three while scoring about 12 points per game in reduced minutes.

By his senior season, however, Johnson was fully healthy and ready to go. During the 2018-19 season, Johnson shot over 55% from two and an incredible 45.7% from three. He also averaged career highs of 5.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 16.9 points per game. Johnson was an All-ACC First Team selection and the 11th overall pick in the NBA draft.

Cameron Johnson brought more to the team than just his excellent shooting percentages. He was a team player with an infectious smile who always seemed to be having fun on the court. He was a senior leader on a team with highly ranked freshmen Coby White and Nassir Little. He was the key to one of the most explosive offenses in recent Carolina memory. If not for the team flu in the Sweet 16, he could have well led the team to another title.

Counterpoint: Makhtar N’Diaye

If emotion is what Carolina fans most desire, then Makhtar N’Diaye was your man. After signing with Wake Forest but then being ruled ineligible, N’Diaye transferred to Michigan for two years before transferring again, this time to Carolina, in 1996.

N’Diaye’s first year in Chapel Hill was spent mostly in a reserve role behind an incredible lineup consisting of Serge Zwikker, Shammond Williams, Vince Carter, Ademola Okulaja, and Antawn Jamison (with Ed Cota playing significant minutes). The following year, he was a regular starter who averaged six points, four rebounds, and seven fouls per game. Both seasons, the Heels made the Final Four.

His impact as a player was directly related to the bench, or lack thereof, in his final season. Carolina essentially only played six players that year with N”Diaye stepping into the shoes of graduated senior Zwikker. Brendan Haywood was the seventh man and he averaged only eight minutes per game. Additionally, that was a team with very talented and athletic players that needed the interior force N’Diaye brought. He did not need a lot of shots to be effective.

N’Diaye’s downfall, of course, was his inability to control his emotions. He was frequently T’d up and seemed to be in constant foul trouble. It all boiled over against Utah in the 1998 Final Four. That emotion still served a purpose. There were two of the greatest college basketball players of all time on that time and N’Diaye’s antics managed to keep at least some of the opposing team’s focus on him. Looking back, there may even be analogies drawn to what Dennis Rodman was doing for the Bulls at the same time.

Time for you to decide! Who was the most impactful transfer that UNC has had? Is it one of the two years transfers discussed above or is there a one year transfer that meant more to the team? Leave opinions in the comments and feel free to offer future topic suggestions.

Drink Pairing

In need of encouragement to debate – If you have not tried Larceny, you are missing out. All bourbon fans, or even people interested in trying bourbon because they are bored from being stuck at home, should try Larceny. For the price, it is the best there is. Drink it with a splash of ginger ale on ice (and only Seagram’s, the alternative is horrible). Alternatively, mix with a good ginger beer like Fever Tree for a spicy kick.