Now that we’ve covered all of the returning Tar Heels, it’s time to get into the newcomers. While there are some very intriguing transfers to look at, we’re gonna start with the incoming freshmen. Carolina’s 2021 recruiting class ranked 39th in the country (seventh in the ACC) according to 247sports with a couple of top-70 players. The first rookie we are going to preview is Dontrez Styles.
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Styles was the 62nd overall recruit according to the 247sports composite rankings. Hailing from Kinston, North Carolina, he was considered the second best player in the state and ranked 12th for the small forward position. He committed back in April of 2020, choosing the Heels over the likes of Clemson, NC State, and others.
At 6’7, 205 pounds, Styles has the physical tools to step in and make an immediate impact at the wing/forward positions. He’s a high motor guy who never gives up on a play, known for his chase down blocks and relentlessness in the paint on both sides of the ball. Styles’ best attribute at this stage is his athleticism, as he possesses above-average jumping ability and is very quick getting his feet off the ground. As a result, he’s always been at his best when he plays above the rim.
Speaking of athleticism, this part of Styles’ game should be helpful for a Carolina team that doesn’t currently have a ton of flash. There are certainly guys such as Caleb Love and RJ Davis that I expect will make some exciting plays, but nobody on the roster carries the combination of size, speed, and strength that Styles does. Because of the holes he fills, it’s possible that Styles could be pushed into a significant role from the get go.
Offensively, Styles is still somewhat of a work in progress. For now, he’s mostly just a straight line driver as his ball handling and three point shooting could both use some work. That being said, those are both areas that the Heels should have covered pretty well. Styles likely won’t be asked to do a whole lot from a scoring standpoint, which will allow him to focus on just bringing that energy and attacking the paint. He’s not the kind of player to shy away from contact nor will he have any problem bumping around with bigger guys down low.
The defensive side is presumably where Styles will be the most impactful. Not only does he have the versatility and foot speed to guard multiple positions, but he’s also a super aggressive rebounder. Although Hubert Davis has managed to go out and grab some high level big men on the transfer market, rebounding isn’t going to come as easy as it was with last year’s star-studded frontcourt. Thus, Styles has an opportunity to make a name for himself if he can come in and bring that same intensity on the glass that we saw from him in high school.
Overall, Styles is a great fit for Carolina’s system who projects to be a three or four-year player. As mentioned above, he’s got the intangibles to distinguish himself in his opening season. With a wealth of experienced wings and forwards on the roster, it’s difficult to project just how big his role will be. That being said, Kerwin Walton arrived in Chapel Hill last year as the Tar Heels’ most unheralded recruit and ultimately became a starter and large fixture due to his shooting ability. Regardless of how things shake out, Dontrez Styles is going to be an exciting player for Carolina fans to watch, this season and beyond.