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UNC Basketball: Who will be the next Cam Johnson?

The graduate transfer made a mark on the Carolina program. Can the new transfers replicate his success?

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Charlotte Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

When the North Carolina Tar Heels landed graduate transfer Cam Johnson in 2017, it was a new approach for the UNC program. In just a few years after Johnson’s transfer, this new approach will become a standard recruiting strategy with the introduction of the one-time transfer rule. Rather than just graduate transfers making an immediate impact, all players that take advantage of the one-time transfer rule can continue their careers at a new school without missing a beat.

This offseason is one unlike any other in program history. The unexpected retirement of a Hall of Fame coach has been seen before. However, the addition of the new one-time transfer rule creates uncertainty across college basketball.

The loss of Garrison Brooks was inevitable as a graduate transfer. The loss of Walker Kessler, perhaps the nail in the coffin of Roy Williams’s head coaching career, was an example of how sudden transfers can disrupt a program’s short and long term plans.

Yet with these departures, new Carolina head coach Hubert Davis is at a net-positive with this rule. The additions of graduate transfer Brady Manek, rising junior Justin McKoy, and rising sophomore Dawson Garcia bolster this lineup. The Tar Heels went from a solid Top 25 team to a favorite for the ACC title.

Johnson is the gold standard for incoming transfers to UNC. In his final season, Johnson scored in double figures in 34 of 36 games. He hit the second-most threes in a season for a UNC player, and his .457 three-point shooting percentage is top five all-time in a season at Carolina.

Cam Johnson Stats

Season School Conf G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Season School Conf G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2014-15 Pitt ACC 8 0 14.4 1.6 4.1 0.394 0.6 1.3 0.5 1 2.9 0.348 0.3 0.5 0.5 0.3 0.9 1.1 0.5 0.1 0.4 0.5 1.5 4.5
2015-16 Pitt ACC 32 1 11.7 1.6 4.1 0.397 0.7 1.6 0.431 0.9 2.5 0.375 0.7 0.8 0.808 0.4 1.4 1.8 0.5 0.3 0.2 0.5 1.3 4.8
2016-17 Pitt ACC 33 33 33.3 3.8 8.6 0.447 1.5 2.9 0.51 2.4 5.7 0.415 1.8 2.2 0.811 0.7 3.8 4.5 2.3 0.9 0.3 1.2 2.6 11.9
2017-18 UNC ACC 26 20 29.3 4.3 10.2 0.426 2.5 4.9 0.52 1.8 5.3 0.341 1.9 2.3 0.847 1.7 3 4.7 2.3 0.7 0.2 1 1.7 12.4
2018-19 UNC ACC 36 36 29.9 5.9 11.6 0.506 3.2 5.8 0.556 2.7 5.8 0.457 2.5 3.1 0.818 1.8 3.9 5.8 2.4 1.2 0.3 1.5 1.5 16.9
Career Overall 135 90 25.4 3.8 8.4 0.457 1.9 3.6 0.523 1.9 4.7 0.405 1.7 2 0.817 1.1 3 4.1 1.8 0.8 0.3 1 1.8 11.2
Pitt 73 34 21.7 2.6 6.1 0.429 1 2.2 0.484 1.6 4 0.399 1.1 1.4 0.798 0.5 2.5 3 1.3 0.6 0.3 0.8 1.9 8
UNC 62 56 29.6 5.2 11 0.475 2.9 5.4 0.542 2.3 5.6 0.411 2.3 2.7 0.828 1.8 3.5 5.3 2.4 1 0.2 1.3 1.6 15

Johnson’s scoring average nearly doubled after his transfer to Carolina, and he went from a good P5 player to First Team All-ACC and NBA lottery pick. And he is still making things happen in the NBA Finals right now.

The performance of a transfer player will be hard to top. Which incoming transfer will have the most significant impact? And will any supplant Johnson as the standard for UNC transfers?

Brady Manek

Brady Manek Stats

Season School Conf G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Season School Conf G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2017-18 Oklahoma Big 12 32 26 23.7 3.9 8.3 0.466 2 3.5 0.58 1.8 4.8 0.383 0.6 0.9 0.6 1.3 3.9 5.2 0.5 0.3 0.7 0.7 0.9 10.2
2018-19 Oklahoma Big 12 34 34 27.8 4.5 9.5 0.469 2.8 4.9 0.576 1.7 4.7 0.358 1.6 2.1 0.764 1.4 4.4 5.9 0.8 0.7 0.7 1.4 1.3 12.2
2019-20 Oklahoma Big 12 31 31 30.5 5.1 11.3 0.453 2.8 5.2 0.537 2.3 6 0.38 1.9 2.5 0.779 1.4 4.8 6.2 0.9 0.5 1.2 0.8 1.5 14.4
2020-21 Oklahoma Big 12 25 20 25.1 4 9.5 0.422 2.1 4.4 0.477 1.9 5.1 0.375 0.9 1.2 0.767 1.2 3.8 5 0.8 0.5 0.8 0.9 1.9 10.8
Career Oklahoma 122 111 26.8 4.4 9.6 0.454 2.5 4.5 0.546 1.9 5.1 0.374 1.3 1.7 0.746 1.3 4.3 5.6 0.7 0.5 0.8 1 1.4 12

Manek, a 6’-9” graduate transfer with a double-figure scoring average and career .374 three-point shooting percentage, has the most similarities to Johnson.

Manek will slot different than Johnson. Johnson was the tallest shooting guard in program history, and Manek will likely return to the stretch 4, perhaps similarly to Johnson’s teammate Luke Maye.

With just one year at Carolina, Manek will need to make the most of the opportunity. Veteran experience and a career turnover average of 1.0 will be the assets that keep him on the court. While he’s out there, scoring buckets will be an excellent addition.

Justin McKoy

Justin McKoy Stats

Season School Conf G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Season School Conf G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2019-20 Virginia ACC 14 0 7.4 0.4 0.9 0.385 0.4 0.9 0.385 0 0 0.3 0.4 0.667 0.4 0.7 1.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.8 1
2020-21 Virginia ACC 19 4 11.3 1.5 3.1 0.483 1.3 2.6 0.51 0.2 0.5 0.333 0.4 0.5 0.8 0.9 2.4 3.3 0.5 0.2 0 0.5 0.9 3.5
Career Virginia 33 4 9.6 1 2.2 0.465 0.9 1.9 0.484 0.1 0.3 0.333 0.4 0.5 0.75 0.7 1.7 2.3 0.3 0.2 0 0.4 0.9 2.5

McKoy has the smallest sample size of the three due to limited minutes. He has been described as a high-energy player with a great basketball IQ.

Last season, he improved offensively and was effective on the boards. In fact, his rebounds per 40 minutes last season were 11.6, fitting right into the mold of a high-rebound Carolina team.

McKoy might be most comparable to Johnson’s teammate Theo Pinson as a stat sheet-stuffer with a sneaky ability to rebound and the upside to make solid offensive contributions.

The Cary, North Carolina native has some Tar Heel roots, and McKoy as a junior and senior leader on a Carolina squad is an intangible that was missing the past couple of seasons.

Dawson Garcia

Dawson Garcia Stats

Season School Conf G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Season School Conf G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2020-21 Marquette Big East 27 27 29.7 4.5 9.3 0.48 3.5 6.6 0.531 1 2.7 0.356 3.1 3.9 0.783 2.1 4.5 6.6 0.8 0.3 0.5 1.6 2.2 13

When Garcia dropped 24 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in Marquette’s February win over UNC in Chapel Hill, it undoubtedly left an impression on the Carolina coaching staff.

A scholarship offer that never came to fruition due to another commitment, Garcia finally can accept that offer. He comes in even hotter than his four-star rating and a top 40 national ranking as a recruit.

Although he and Johnson play different styles, Garcia can be the best transfer for the Tar Heels. Garcia has room to grow as an outside shooter, and you can expect him to improve as a solid rebounder in a UNC system that will still emphasize the boards.

Will one season with the Tar Heels put him on the trajectory to surpass Johnson as Carolina’s top all-time transfer? Likely not, especially with the depth UNC now has next season.

However, with one season in Chapel Hill under his belt and a firm grasp on a starting spot as a junior, Garcia can potentially be a First Team All-ACC honoree and first-round NBA draft pick.


What do you think, Tar Heel Blog readers? Which incoming transfer are you most excited about?