Let’s admit it: when we as fans and media discuss what a player can and cannot do, we tend to brush over the importance of certain types of intangibles. This is especially true when it comes to obtaining a brand new player, because the only things we really want to know is whether or not they can shoot, if they can play defense, and if in general they are mechanically sound. Virginia transfer Justin McKoy, however, is a player that fills a void that existed last season thanks to the absence of Cole Anthony. Before Cole Anthony, Theo Pinson was the guy in this specific regard, and he played right alongside one of the most intense players I’ve ever seen on the court in Joel Berry. So, what do these players have in common?
Lots and lots of energy.
It sounds like such an obvious trait, but the reality is that not every player is able to provide huge explosions of energy, determination, and grit. In doing my research on what McKoy brings to the table, every single person has focused on how intense he can be. Though it pains me to say it, we can at least partially thank the Virginia Cavaliers for that. Their entire system requires you to be intense, to have a “Nobody is going to beat me” mentality, and to never take plays off. This is something that this Carolina team needs, and knowing that there is someone like that on the roster makes me hopeful for what this team could be able to achieve.
With the energy talk out of the way, let’s talk about how Justin McKoy ended up in Chapel Hill. Coming out of high school, McKoy was a three-star prospect that was the 52nd-best small forward in the 2019 class. He received a scholarship offer from Roy Williams, but ultimately he decided to commit to Virginia. During his two seasons with the Cavaliers, McKoy averaged 3.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, which mostly had to do with how many minutes he was playing. While his shooting percentage wasn’t anything too exciting his freshman year, he shot at a 48% clip from the field during his sophomore campaign, and made 33.3% of his three-pointers.
When I spoke with former Streaking the Lawn site manager Caroline Darney about McKoy following his decision to transfer, she described him as being very springy and great on the boards. His 6’8 build tells me that he will likely play at the three and four in Hubert Davis’ system, but could play as a small ball five occasionally. McKoy himself confirmed that we could see him play in various spots throughout the 2021-22 season. Here’s what he told 247Sports about how Hubert Davis’ system could help him prepare for the NBA:
“I think they’re directly correlated. I think the way Coach Davis is playing is more of an NBA style offense. And so I think it’ll not only prepare me, but everyone else as well, because they’re gonna have to get used to playing in this style of offense, but we’re gonna have years of prior experience doing it, rather than if we didn’t. I feel like this is good for everybody, but definitely good for me, too, to be a swing man who can go three, four, sometimes small-ball five. This is an awesome experience because it doesn’t really matter what position you play, they’re all pretty similar. If you’re running four out, then one, two, three, four, all are in the same kind of spots throughout the entire offense. That’ll be fun, that’ll be intriguing, and I definitely think it will be a treat for Carolina fans.”
Of all of the players that we have discussed so far in our previews, Justin McKoy may be the most interesting one so far because of how little he was used during his time with Virginia. If I had to guess, we will see him enter almost every game as an energy player, meaning someone that can crash the boards and play really good defense. I am sure he will have some strong offensive performances occasionally, and it could be that he excels under Hubert Davis in a way that wasn’t imaginable under Tony Bennett. We will see how things shake out very soon.
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