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UNC Basketball Summer Preview: Caleb Love

Can the talented guard make that famous freshman-to-sophomore leap?

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

When it seemed like the sky was falling in Chapel Hill after rumors swirled of a mass exodus, it was one player’s decision to come back to school that effectively halted the panic. Caleb Love was one of the main names initially mentioned as a potential transfer. Shortly after talented freshmen Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler announced their departures, Love eased the minds of Tar Heel fans across the country by assuring his return. Now, in the midst of what figures to be a crucial offseason for Carolina, let’s look at Caleb Love will mean for next year’s squad.

Past preview links:

May 30th: Leaky Black

June 6th: Anthony Harris

June 13th: Armando Bacot

Love averaged 10.5 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.6 rebounds as a freshman. His shooting numbers left something to be desired as he notched 31.6% from the field and just 26.6% from the three point line. However, he did manage to knock in 80.8% of his free throw attempts. Love’s 3.1 turnovers were the most on the team (Sharpe was next with 2.0).

Obviously, Love’s freshman year statistics weren’t exactly what he or anyone else had expected. With that being said, I cannot stress to you enough how unconcerned I am about those numbers. For starters, he entered college during the middle of a global pandemic. He didn’t get the opportunity to play in the McDonald’s All-American game (cancelled) nor did he get to participate in the always-valuable summer pickup games that take place in Chapel Hill under normal circumstances. Compound that with the fact that Love was a rookie combo guard trying to figure out the notoriously enigmatic point guard position in Roy Williams’ offense, and it’s easy to understand and forgive the inconsistent play.

Speaking of inconsistent play, the lack of consistency wasn’t always a bad thing. What I mean by that is this: while Love had his fair share of head-scratching performances, he was also a threat to go off on any given night, especially as the season progressed. Just ask Duke.

In two games against the Blue Devils, Love recorded 43 points, shooting 15-28 from the field and 6-11 from deep. He also dished out 14 assists, though he did cough the ball up nine times. Still, cold-blooded Caleb came alive in those contests and we were able to get a glimpse of the enormous offensive potential he possesses. Not only that, but he helped deliver Tar Heel fans the magnificent season sweep of Duke in Roy Williams’ last ride as head coach.

Of course, now the Heels will be led by former assistant Hubert Davis. For Love, early indications are that this could be a system he really thrives in. After being hired, Davis was quick to state that the foundation of Carolina basketball would remain the same but that he’d be making some tweaks here and there. The main areas he seems to be emphasizing are spacing and shooting. As I’m sure fans will remember, Love wasn’t the only one who struggled shooting the ball last season. As dominant as they were in the paint, the Heels were one of the worst shooting teams in the country. It didn’t take long for Davis to hit the transfer portal and pick up a couple of shooting bigs in Justin McKoy and Brady Manek. Perhaps his adjustments will take a little pressure off Love and allow him to get more in-rhythm jump shots.

Regardless of any changes to the system, Caleb Love is poised for a huge sophomore season. Most, if not all of his problems stemmed either from a lack of cohesion on the team’s part or a lack of comfortability on his part. Even in such an unprecedented year, we saw Love make big strides as the season went along. The talent has always been apparent and, despite the shaky shooting numbers, there’s no question the dude has a knack for knocking in timely buckets. For Love, it’s all about utilizing this offseason to continue to work on his shot as well as his decision-making. If he can improve those areas, I believe we’ll be in for an entertaining 2021-22 season.