The decisions by four of the Tar Heels famed Iron Five to return to school sparked lots of excitement. After an incredible tournament run, the idea of running it back and making a second consecutive final four did not seem farfetched. However, with the departure of Brady Manek, who became a fan favorite due to his electric play, there were questions as to who would replace that production. A lot of those questions were answered when Hubert Davis went out and got Northwestern transfer Pete Nance.
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For starters, Nance is not the same type of player as Manek and thus won’t be expected to just magically fill that void. He’s a big time ball player in his own right, though. Similar to Manek, he’s a fifth year senior that spent his first four years in a different conference.
At Northwestern, Nance improved every year he was there. Going from averaging just 2.9 points per game as a freshman, he put up 14.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in his final season. Perhaps even more impressive was his efficiency, as he shot 49.7% from the field, 45.2% from three, and 76.8% from the free throw line. As a result, Nance was an honorable mention for the All-Big Ten team and immediately became one of the most sought after guys after entering his name in the transfer portal.
At 6’11, 230 pounds, Nance has great size and length. Something he brings that was missing from last year’s squad is a legitimate experienced big that can give Armando Bacot some relief at the five position. Similar to Bacot, Nance is typically at his best when working out of the post, but he plays with a little more finesse. He likes to size up defenders with a few dribbles and get to either his turnaround jumper or a little hook shot, both of which are pure. When you pair this with Nance’s ability to hit from deep, it makes him extremely versatile and difficult to defend.
Nance also brings plenty to the table on the defensive side. While not necessarily a prolific shot blocker, he has that ability and is a commanding presence in the paint. A duo of Nance and Bacot is not what you want to see on your way to the hoop. He also moves his feet well and is adept at defending the pick and roll. Nance can guard the four and five comfortably, but he can hold his own when switched onto a smaller guy.
So where does Nance fit in with this roster? All in all, I’d say he’s about as good a fit Coach Davis could’ve found. Right off the bat, his ability to make shots at his size makes him an intriguing prospect for Davis’s system. Nance won’t be flying around the floor and shooting off the move to the degree that Manek did, but when he’s open, there’s a really good chance it’s going in. The importance of having that dimension to the offense cannot be overstated.
Moreover, the offense that Nance ran at Northwestern isn’t too different from what the Heels like to do. They had him set plenty of ball screens with the option of either rolling to the paint or fading to the perimeter. They also ran lots of high/low action with Nance receiving the ball at the top of the key and essentially becoming the quarterback of the offense. His passing ability makes him dangerous when able to see the whole floor, and between Bacot and the Heels’ electric guards, he’ll have plenty of options to throw to.
Although the assumption has been that Nance will step in and be a starter, it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. While I can’t wait to see Nance and Bacot play together, it’s fair to wonder if the paint could get a bit clogged with the two of them. Despite his size, Manek basically played like a guard, which is not exactly what I expect to see from Nance. Regardless, he is a major addition to the team and could be the X-factor in getting the Heels back to April basketball.