Former Tar Heel and 2005 national champion Jawad Williams is one of my favorite follows on Twitter. Every now and then he will decide to drop something by way of a new children’s book, his thoughts about the game of basketball as a whole, or he will go all out and deliver us a blog post so that we can read his thoughts in long form. The weapon of choice yesterday for Williams was blessing us all with a blog post to discuss how different this summer has been compared to last summer’s COVID-dominated offseason, and what he thought of some of the current players.
Before we discuss what he had to say, I strongly advise that you go read his post by clicking here, and then come back to this article.
Now that we are all (hopefully) caught up, something that Williams brought up in his blog post was something that we long suspected was part of the problem with the 2020-21 season, but it’s really hard to point to it in any tangible way. He discussed not being able to help the active roster during the summer due to COVID restrictions, and he even pointed to specific players by name. It would’ve been incredible for him to have gotten his hands on the bigs and Leaky Black to help them elevate their games, but the name that stood out in a big way that he mentioned was former Tar Heel and recent transfer Walker Kessler.
Jawad Williams is one of a number of big men that are more than qualified to help someone like Kessler come out of the gate firing on all cylinders at the beginning of the season, and help him chase his goals of being a talented stretch four/five in Roy Williams’ system. Even more importantly, maybe things would’ve went a bit different following the season when it came to Kessler’s decisions to stay or leave had he actually gotten some general face time with former players like Williams, whether the conversations were about basketball or just life in general. In just about any sport, the pandemic has been a really tough thing to navigate, but perhaps nothing was nearly as impacted as college sports. For a program like Carolina, it is highly beneficial, and I’d even say absolutely necessary, for current players to be able to interact with former players. This is not only important when it comes to maintaining that family-type atmosphere that the program has done an excellent job creating, but a lot of these former players know what it takes to succeed in the pros. Knowing that the current roster has been working out with players like Jawad Williams, Marcus Paige, and Theo Pinson (who are all Final Four/national championship players) already makes me a lot more optimistic about how this season will turn out.
Near the end of his blog post, Williams discussed which player stood out to him during pick-up games. The names he mentioned were Brady Manek, Justin McKoy, and Dontrez Styles. When it comes to Manek, he was particularly impressed with his shooting ability and also his athleticism. I got to watch some film on Manek over the last few days, and I think what will be really interesting is seeing how Davis decides to use him on the perimeter. A lot of the highlights I got to see involved him setting high ball screens, rolling out behind the arc, and when the defense sags of of him drilling three-pointers to beat the opponents’ close-outs. According to Williams, Manek’s game sounds like it goes pretty deep, so I have a feeling that he may be one of the more interesting players to keep an eye on as this coming season progresses.
It was also really exciting to read that McKoy and Styles are standing out in pick-up games. Williams compared McKoy to Cam Johnson, which is incredible to hear since there hasn’t been a great deal of information on McKoy’s game during his time at UVA. During his two years at UVA, he logged 313 minutes of playing time total, which to give you an idea of how little that is, Caleb Love played 774 minutes last season alone.
Finally, Williams called Styles a “dog” in his assessment of the freshman forward, and thinks that he could end up being a big-time player. One still has to wonder where Styles would be ranked going into his Carolina career had the pandemic not ruined spring/summer basketball last year, but there is a good chance that some fans will look at his ranking at face value rather than looking at the amount of potential this kid has. THB’s own Doug Valentine just did a player preview for Styles, so if you haven’t checked it out I highly recommend it. There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to not only Styles, but D’Marco Dunn and the transfers coming in as well.
Knowing that things are back to normal in Chapel Hill when it comes to the Carolina family dynamic is the best news that we could’ve possibly received in 2021. Former players like Jawad Williams and many others are doing the Lord’s work when it comes to not only building relationships with the young guys, but helping them achieve their ultimate goal of making a Final Four appearance and hopefully competing for a national championship. What do you think of Williams’ blog post? Also, what expectations do you all have for this coming season? let us know in the comments below.