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Salute to the Iron Five: Brady Manek

It’s almost cruel that Carolina only got RJ Davis’s son Larry Bird for just one season. He didn’t disappoint in the NCAA Tournament

Over the course of the 2021-22 season, Brady Manek did exactly what Hubert Davis asked him to: transformed the way UNC plays basketball. That’s no exaggeration. The Carolina Way looks less like a Roy Williams running and rebounding machine, and more like a modern NBA offense. Talented leftovers from Roy’s last team were able to make the transition in time, but Hubert had to go outside the program to grab the missing piece that let everything else fall into place.

Brady Manek’s ability to space the floor, knock down three-pointers, and let Armando Bacot absolutely gobble up every available rebound, will be tough to duplicate going forward. He stepped up every other part of his game in the NCAA Tournament, playing tough defense and rebounding at a high level. As an Iron Five member, Manek played heavy minutes because he was 1.) the most unique player on the roster and 2.) he needed to play at center when Armando Bacot went out.

Manek was Carolina’s co-leading scorer during the tournament with 113 total points (tied with Caleb Love), but was a far more consistent scorer, never failing to score in double-digits. If it weren’t for the erroneous Flagrant-2 in the Baylor game, Brady would surely be UNC’s overall leading scorer, as he left that game with 26 points on 4-8 three-point shooting.

He started the tournament in Fort Worth, TX on fire, scoring 28 points on 10-15 shooting, in front of 40+ friends and family, a mere 3.5 hours drive from Harrah, OK. Manek showed that he’s more than an outside shooter. He has great rebounding instincts for easy putbacks, and great court awareness that allows him to drift into spaces for easy feeds (look at how easily Leaky Black feeds him for a lay-up when he simply gets behind a Marquette defender and waits for him to step up to double-team):

His connection with Armando Bacot was almost telepathic. UNC would run sets with Manek receiving passes or handoffs in the high post or three point line, and he would whip passes to Bacot already posting on the low block. When presented with smaller defenders, Manek would get into the paint and post them up, either for easy turnarounds or jump hooks. His points against Saint Peter’s show this off best:

When he’s in rhythm and on a roll, Manek piles on points and pressure on opponents. In the glorious first half against Kansas, watch as he instantly turns a tied game into a six-point lead in just two possessions, first off a screen set-play from Bacot, and the other by having the foresight to backpedal behind the line when Kansas got sucked into the paint by Caleb Love’s drive:

As the only Iron Five member that is ineligible to return next season, our memories of Brady Manek will have to sustain us in the coming years, since we will not be able to watch him patrol the baseline or pop up along the arc for his quick trigger threes. Brady Manek arrived in Chapel Hill with minimal fanfare, but he will leave with a ticker-tape parade. Nobody will forget him, and even though he spent four years at Oklahoma, he feels more like a Tar Heel than a Sooner. Now that he’s in the Carolina Family, I’d expect to see him in Chapel Hill during his professional offseason more than Norman.