Earlier this morning we began looking at the choices UNC’s players could make as the transfer portal opened. It’s already been an eventful first day, as Tyler Nickel and Justin McKoy have entered the portal.
Could any of this year’s underclassmen join them? Let’s look at the sophomores and freshmen.
- D’Marco Dunn: D’Marco saw substantial improvement across the board in his sophomore season, despite suffering a broken hand that cost him five games after the Indiana loss. Dunn played more games (23 last season to 27 this season), more minutes (4.1 mpg to 10.3), shot better (FG% improved 13% to 42.4%, 3P% climbed 12% to 32.4%, and FT% went up 27% to 60%), scored more points (1.0 ppg to 2.7), and proved to be an at times ferocious defender. There’s something here that Hubert Davis absolutely must hold on to and develop.
Will Dunn want to stick around? He’ll have to do some playing time math. If Caleb Love and RJ Davis both return, he’ll surely be gone. If one or both leave, he could find himself sliding into a starting spot.
- Dontrez Styles: What happened here??? Dontrez Styles played half as many games as last season (30 to 15!) and nearly half as many minutes (175 down to 88). Whatever shortcomings exist in Trez’s game, and he is far from perfect, he didn’t deserve this.
A versatile defender and high energy player, Dontrez could mesmerize on one play, then make you slap your forehead on the next. What cures that kind of inconsistency? Regular playing time. If Dontrez leaves — and absolutely no one would blame him if he did — it will be a textbook case for Hubert Davis to study going forward in his head coaching career.
Roy Williams-style wave substitutions aren’t required. But minutes for a guy like Dontrez simply have to be found somewhere, particularly in the early part of the season.
- Will Shaver: Technically, Shaver is a redshirt freshmen, but we’ll group him with his peers. Foot surgery put Will on the shelf in early January, and we didn’t really miss him, as he was a developmental player playing Armando Bacot’s position. Bacot was a minutes monster, and Pete Nance took his spot when he did sit (or was injured).
I expect Shaver to return. He’s still raw, so it’s not like HD was being unfair to him. Hopefully his foot heals well and he puts on some good weight. By all accounts, Shaver was a good high school shooter, hitting 35% from 3=point range, so hopefully he can help Carolina space the floor some.
- Seth Trimble: It was a mixed bag for Trimble in his debut season at Carolina. He was the most hyped freshmen, fresh off a Team USA stint in the summer. He was always going to play second fiddle to Caleb Love and RJ Davis, but after making the starting line-up for two games when Pete Nance hurt his back, he kind of got lost in the shuffle.
For whatever reason, Trimble was extremely tentative on offense, often refusing to drive to the rim or shoot. He handled well and defended ferociously, but was a non-factor offensively most nights, save an 11-point season high in the home win over Wake Forest.
Trimble figures to see more time next season for the same reasons D’Marco Dunn does. If both RJ Davis and Caleb Love leave, Dunn and Trimble could be our new starting back court. If only one leaves, it will probably be one or the other. It’ll depend on whether or not HD wants to start two point guards again.
I’ll be very curious to see what Trimble’s game looks like if he gets more minutes without the gravitational pull of Caleb Love’s offense next to him. If he has space to drive and the courage to finish at the rim, I know that he can put some poor fool on a poster.
Jalen Washington: The most intriguing decision of all. Hopefully Jalen is not at risk to leave unexpectedly.
Jalen Washington’s minutes were carefully administered, with the freshman not even seeing the court until the Georgia Tech game on December 10th. Hubert Davis was right to be cautious, as Washington had missed his last two high school seasons due to multiple knee surgeries.
When Washington played, it was for brief cameos, until Armando Bacot went down at Virginia. Washington stepped up with the game of his career, playing 27 minutes, scoring 13 points, and grabbing six rebounds, all season highs. In the next game at Louisville, he played 19 minutes, but afterwards it was single-digits for the rest of the season.
As frustrating as that must have been to Jalen, it was a prudent course of action. We simply couldn’t risk injuring his knee again, and it will take a while for his conditioning to get to the level required for heavy ACC minutes. Hopefully Jalen agrees and returns for a sophomore season where he can run, space the floor with his shooting, and help HD evolve the offense.