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UNC Basketball: Discussing Hubert Davis’ transfer portal options

Now that Kerwin Walton is gone, Davis has a tough choice to make.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-National Championship-Kansas vs North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Kerwin Walton has entered the transfer portal, UNC is now able to offer the open scholarship to other players that are also looking to join a new program. This means that Hubert Davis has a plethora of options at his disposal, but more than likely he will be looking to fill that scholarship with either a wing player or a big. It is hard to imagine that Davis would want even more depth beyond what he already has with Caleb Love and RJ Davis both deciding to return, so now is Davis’ chance to fill Brady Manek’s spot to the best of his ability with a veteran player.

The problem, however, is that the transfer portal is an absolute mess to navigate if you are trying to figure out what Davis’ next move might be. There are a lot of players currently in the portal, but only so many of them would fit this Carolina team. With that said, I handpicked three viable options for the 2022-23 Tar Heels team that could fit nicely into Hubert Davis’ system. Let’s take a look at who they are, how they did last season, and what skills they could bring to the table. My one and only disclaimer: I have no inside information, so these players could be completely different than the ones Davis actually targets. With that said, let’s take a look at three options.

KJ Williams (Murray State)

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round Indianapolis- St. Peters at Murray State Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

2021-22 Stats:
18 ppg, 53.8% FG, 32.7% 3PT, 8.4 REB, 0.7 AST, 0.6 BLK, 1.4 STL, 1.5 TO

It should be much of a surprise that the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year would show up on this list, mostly because his name has come up ever since Kerwin Walton announced that he was transferring. The reason that UNC fans have gravitated towards the fifth-year senior is simple: he is a legit stretch big that can play his tail off. Williams finished the season as Murray State’s best scorer and rebounder, averaged the most steals, and did it all while being really efficient from the field. His three-point percentage did take a bit of a dip his senior season, but the 41.3% he shot from deep his junior season would indicate that there is potential for him to be somehow even deadlier on another team.

As far as fit goes, Williams could spend time at the four or the five, and do so without sacrificing Bacot’s size. At 6’10 and 245 lbs, he should be more than capable of helping prevent another Iron Five situation with next year’s team (even though that was really fun). Factor in incoming freshman Jalen Washington, and suddenly this team has the depth required to not only compete for the ACC title, but to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Manny Bates (NC State)

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

2021-22 Stats: Unavailable

Alright, so there’s a lot going on with this selection that probably has people scratching their heads. Not only is Bates a former NC State guy, but he missed the entire 2021-22 season due to an injury. In my defense, Bates is a really good player that was on a pretty terrible team, and I think he could add a lot of physicality to the Tar Heels. It also doesn’t hurt that Kevin Keatts used Bates as an excuse as to why the lost basically all season long, so he has to be an incredible player to serve as a scapegoat for what was actually poor coaching/management of a team, right? Right?!

In all seriousness, Bates has always been a good player for the Wolfpack, averaging 64.7% from the field and 7.1 points per game. It doesn’t seem like much, but once again I must point out who his coach was. Respectfully, I think Hubert Davis could turn Bates into a nightmare. The likely scenario would be him coming in for Bacot off of the bench in order to play hard on defense and to play bully ball at the rim. His 2.7 blocks per game towers over junior season Bacot’s 1.7 blocks per game, so needless to say, opposing teams would have a heck of a time trying to score on Bates. This isn’t my runaway favorite choice in the portal, but c’mon: stealing a player from the Wolfpack, and using him to beat them by 60 next season. What isn’t fun about that?

Keion Brooks Jr. (Kentucky)

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Tennessee vs Kentucky Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2021-22 Stats:
10.8 ppg, 49.1% FG, 23.3% 3PT, 4.4 REB, 1.0 AST, 0.6 BLK, 0.7 STL, 1.3 TO

Keion Brooks is one of the tricker of the three picks for my list, but I do think he ultimately could be a solid addition. He is coming off of his most efficient shooting season out of his three seasons at Kentucky, and with just a little bit more work he could be a strong wing player for Hubert Davis to deploy to spell Leaky Black. It would be easy to make the argument that Brooks could be in the starting lineup because of his offensive prowess, but Black is easily the better defensive player, and we all know what Davis cherished during the 2021-22 season.

If there was one major area of concern for Brooks, it would be his three-point shooting. During all three seasons at Kentucky, Brooks failed to shoot 30+ percent from deep, which would be a huge problem if Caleb Love and RJ Davis weren’t already on the team. If Davis chose to go this route, he would inevitably have to sacrifice his ability to stretch the floor whenever Brooks enters the game, which is something that he may not be willing to do. If he was willing to do so, however, Brooks is someone that can post up, hit mid-range shots, and can score in transition. It’s all about risk management when it comes to Brooks, but with Davis’ ability to get the best of out his players (so far), I don’t think reaching for the former Wildcat would be the worst move.

What do all of you think of this list? Who would you like to see Davis target from the transfer portal, and also who do you not want to see him go after? Let us know in the comments below.