Tar Heel fans that came of age during the Roy Williams era recognize a certain brand of basketball. Secondary break. Duel posts. Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds. More free throw makes than the other team has attempts. So on and so forth.
When Hubert Davis took over the reins last April, he set about filling the roster with transfers, while transformationally changing the system to accommodate a more modern, NBA style of play. With traditional posts Garrison Brooks and Day’Ron Sharpe departing, and aspirational stretch-4 Walker Kessler transferring to Auburn, Hubert Davis went fishing in the transfer portal for less beef and more shooting.
Brady Manek and Dawson Garcia fit the bill, and if it weren’t for an unfortunate injury and family medical emergencies, UNC may have had two of the best stretch 4’s in college basketball last season. No matter. Brady Manek quickly gelled with the rest of the Iron Five and along with sharpshooters Caleb Love and RJ Davis, gave Armando Bacot the room to gobble up rebounds and put up points on smaller centers.
Hubert Davis is back in the transfer portal, presumably looking for another player who can replicate some of Brady Manek’s magic for next season. Yesterday Douglas discussed Baylor forward Matthew Mayer. Other names will emerge in the coming days and weeks, but for now, let’s pretend a genie will let Hubert Davis take any former UNC player and plug them into next year’s team for one season. Who would you take? For this exercise, let’s take a look at some former Tar Heels that were just a little before their time and could have added the shooting that Coach Davis is looking for at the power forward spot.
Luke Maye (2017-18)
Luke Maye’s underdog story duing his first two seasons in Chapel Hill were cute. He was originally a preferred walk-on, then a solid bench guy, followed by “The Shot” against Kentucky in the Elite 8 during his sophomore year that propelled Carolina to the 2017 national championship. The following season, with the departure of Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, and Isaiah Hicks, he assumed a greater role in the offense and absolutely stunned national observers.
During that season, Luke Maye averaged 16.9 ppg / 10.1 rpg while shooting 43.1% from 3-pt distance. Fans got glimpses of this potential, but during this season, Luke Maye announced his presence with a full chest. Not only was his individual performance as a tough-rebounding stretch-4 impressive, but so was his mentoring of a trio of freshmen posts that helped fill the starting line-up. Do you remember that Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley, and Brandon Huffman were all freshmen on that team?
On next year’s squad, Armando Bacot will not need any mentorship, he’s set. Bacot should be preseason ACC Player of the Year, and will probably be a preseason All-America. He’ll command double-teams as long as teams can dare to leave the perimeter under serviced. Luke Maye, who didn’t hesitate to hoist up shots in 2017-18, would thrive patrolling the baseline and popping up along the three-point arc just like Manek did last season.
He would also be an able rebounding partner and could leak toward the basket for Caleb Love to dish off to, drawing And-1’s or two-hand dunking without resistance. Maye initiated a lot of his offense, both shots and drives, outside the arc, which would free space in the paint. Look at the highlights from the beating he put on NC State late in the 2017-18 season:
Jawad Williams (2004-05)
Armando Bacot is a rebounding beast, but he might not even be the biggest beast on this Carolina squad. Assistant coach Sean May absolutely gobbled up everything around him with nimble feat and tight end hands during his three-year stint in Chapel Hill. Vital to his success was post wingman Jawad Williams.
Jawad’s best season was during the 2004-05 national championship run. He averaged 13.1 ppg / 4.0 rpg while shooting 38.1% from 3-pt range. Jawad didn’t have the greatest rebounding numbers for a power forward, but it’s hard to board on the same team as Sean May. His shooting was crucial on a team that really only got consistent shooting from Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton.
More than his shooting or physical prowess, Jawad would be able to provide something to next season’s team that Leaky Black and Bacot are familiar with: warning them of what it’s like to be on a losing team. Jawad was a freshman on UNC’s infamous 8-20 team.
Bacot got a taste of that during his freshman season when Carolina went 14-19 before the season was cancelled for Covid-19, but even that misery couldn’t compare to Jawad’s nightmare season. Being able to turn around that freshman experience into a national championship is something that made Jawad’s story special. Bacot will certainly want to emulate that experience.
Rasheed Wallace (2005-06)
As rich as Carolina’s history is with traditional posts, the cupboard is pretty bare with stretch-4s, so I’ve cheated a little bit, and picked Rasheed Wallace during his tenure with the Detroit Pistons. Playing alongside rebounding fanatic Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace was free to score from all three levels, and his three-point shooting had significantly improved since his days in Chapel Hill (he only hit a single trey in four attempts in two seasons at UNC).
At this point in his career, Sheed was two years removed from his championship season in Detroit and was becoming an ever more important piece of the Piston offense. He was scoring 15.1 ppg and grabbing 6.8 rpg, while shooting 35.7% from distance on 5.4 3-point attempts per game.
Since we know how good Sheed looked next to a rebounding savant, it would be awesome seeing a time-warped Sheed raining threes, getting T’d up, and yelling “BALL DON’T LIE!” with four of the Iron Five. And imagine the Christmas carol videos UNC’s social media team could put up in the Dean Dome corner jumbo screens.
Who are some former Carolina greats that you think would be the perfect addition to next year’s squad? Let us know in the comments below!