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UNC Basketball Summer Preview: Leaky Black

The versatile wing will be a key cog on next year’s squad.

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

It has been and will continue to be an unprecedented offseason in college basketball. With players having the option of changing schools without having to sit out, we’ve seen a major influx of people entering the transfer portal. While there’s still plenty left to be settled across the country, we do have a much better idea of what the Carolina roster will look like than we did, say, a couple months ago. With that being said, it’s time to tip off our summer previews, starting with rising senior Leaky Black.

In the 2020-21 season, Black averaged 5.6 points, 2.4 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game in 27.6 minutes. Though he did manage to cut down on his turnovers from the year prior (1.8 to 1.3), Black regressed in nearly every other category. Some of this can be attributed to the arrival of a talented six-man freshman class, but I think most were expecting a bigger jump from him in his junior campaign.

Still, I think Black’s role on the team was understated at times. Carolina played a lot of young guys last season and coughed the ball up routinely as a result. As a veteran wing with ball-handling capabilities, Black was able to relieve some pressure off those guys. Moreover, he was one of the more consistent defenders on the team, using his 6’11 wingspan to bother opposing teams. While his shooting still leaves something to be desired, Black did get better at attacking the basket and has developed a pretty reliable mid-range pull up jumper. He’s also unique in his ability to pull down a rebound on one end and immediately get the break started on the other end.

Since his arrival in Chapel Hill, Black has often drawn comparisons to former Tar Heel Theo Pinson. This comparison is a bit unfair, though, when you look at the teams these two have played on, respectively. In his sophomore and junior seasons, Pinson came off the bench for teams that made it to the national championship. He played alongside guys like Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Justin Jackson, and Joel Berry. Those dudes took lots of pressure off Pinson, allowing Theo to be Theo.

On the other hand, during Black’s sophomore and junior seasons, Carolina failed to even win a tournament game. While some of the blame for that falls on him, there’s no denying the difference in the makeup of those rosters compared to the ones that went to two straight title games. Black didn’t have the same kind of offensive firepower around him. More glaringly, he had almost no shooters around him. In order for players like Pinson and Black to thrive, there need to be other guys that can feed off their play-making ability and put the ball in the hoop. We saw Theo be Theo, but have we truly gotten to see Leaky be Leaky?

I’m optimistic that this season, we will. Hubert Davis went out and got a couple stretch fours in Justin McKoy and Brady Manek, something the Heels haven’t had since Luke Maye graduated. Moreover, Davis is emploring every player on the team, bigs included, to make 1,000 three-pointers a week. It feels like it’s almost a given that R.J. Davis and Caleb Love will improve their shooting numbers. This Carolina team could potentially go from an awful shooting team to a great one.

If that happens, Black could be one of the biggest beneficiaries. For much of this past season, Black started alongside two non-shooting bigs, an inconsistent point guard (Love), and one reliable shooter (Kerwin Walton). Because of this, the offense struggled with spacing and could get stagnant at times. With better shooters around him, Black will have more room to drive and create plays for his teammates. I believe he could be a great fit in Davis’ new-look Carolina system.