Oh man, oh man, oh man... I can’t wait to start talking about Jalen Washington!
Carolina returned from their holiday break to dispatch Charleston Southern at home, making easy work of the Buccaneers. It was a dominant performance in all phases of the game, none as intriguing as Hubert Davis’ bench play.
I jumped the gun with Week 7, calling it the last Stock Report of 2023. So today on New Year’s Eve, let’s look into the team’s stock report for the final time this year!
RJ Davis: RJ has been conspicuous by his absence for most of my stock reports, only appearing twice. How could that be when he’s on a “Ty Lawson in 2009”-esque run this year? Well, because he’s been that good all year, so it’s what’s expected. Stock doesn’t go up, doesn’t go down.
So color me surprised when I saw RJ dominate a game not only with his scoring (which he was phenomenal at again, scoring 20 points on a crisp 7-13 shooting in just 26 minutes), but with his distributing. Dude had ten assists (his season-high!) to four different players. He also fed the primary break with five steals.
Meet RJ Davis, the baller rewriting the history books at UNC!— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) December 30, 2023
The FIRST player ever to drop 20 points, dish out 10 assists, AND swipe 5 steals in a single game! @UNC_Basketball | @ariidavis_ pic.twitter.com/66SQkXtsVA
RJ’s stock rises in accordance with his national profile. Carolina fans know how good he is. Now the national media is starting to pay attention too:
RJ Davis continues to play elite basketball for North Carolina. 20 points, 10 assists, five steals, and ZERO turnovers tonight against Charleston Southern. Playing the best basketball of his career.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 30, 2023
Jalen Washington: Against Oklahoma, Jalen Washington only played five minutes while freshman Zayden High played 12. I had concern that High’s minutes would come at the direct expense of Washington’s.
Well, he put that notion to sleep like CM Punk. Washington was efficient and effective during his 21 minutes of court action, scoring a career-high 17 points (7-9 FG, 2-3 3PT) and pulling down a career-high 7 rebounds. He also chipped in two blocks during UNC’s dominant defensive display against CSU.
J-Wash with a career-high in points and rebounds.— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) December 30, 2023
7 reb pic.twitter.com/QnIFmLNNYj
Jalen’s ability to produce this type of offense during ACC-play will confound opposing head coaches. He is a different type of “5” from Armando Bacot altogether, so they’ll have to formulate multiple defensive plans, one that crowds the paint and double-teams as soon as Bacot gets the ball on the block, and another that has post players closing out all the way to the 3-point line, where Washington is shooting 75% on the season.
Not only that, but Washington is starting to play with Bacot now:
#UNC head coach Hubert Davis says the team has been experimenting with playing both Bacot and Washington on the floor at the same time in practice. Tonight was the first time that lineup has seen the floor in a game this season.— Michael Koh (@michaelkohwchl) December 30, 2023
Having RJ, Cormac Ryan, Harrison Ingram, and Jalen Washington along the perimeter with Armando on a smaller post is the stuff of nightmares for opposing coaches.
Zayden High: It’s harsh to put Zayden here, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with his play. Rather it’s the emergence of his teammates.
High was his usual effervescent self, bundling into the paint and hauling down two rebounds. I actually liked the technical foul he got, which was nonsense (unless he said a magical word that we couldn’t hear on TV). UNC has a reputation of being a bunch of “nice guys” so it’s good to get a little hard-edged sometimes.
High’s biggest problem is that his main competitor for minutes, Jalen Washington, just had a mega productive night, which probably earned him more minutes against Pitt. Not only that, but James Okonkwo was very productive during his minutes (7 points on perfect shooting and 4 rebounds), which means he’s due for increased time.
High’s energy is still great and needed. But he’ll have to add a bit more production on the stat sheet to keep his minutes from getting peeled away by Washington, Okonkwo, and even Jae’Lyn Withers.
That’s a wrap on 2023! UNC heads into 2024 and conference play in a much stronger place than they were in the previous two seasons, but their momentum will be tested with three tough road games in a row.
Who do you think will make gains in the new year? Who will make way for those stepping up? Let us know if the comments! And please, please, please be safe tonight.