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UNC Basketball: The transfer portal is now closed, so let’s look at UNC’s confirmed returning players

We’ve talked about the players that left and the ones who have come in, but who actually stayed?

Duke v North Carolina Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images

While the churn of college basketball seems to be unending, we actually hit a major milestone as of Midnight Friday-or after 11:59 PM Thursday, however you want to celebrate. The transfer portal for winter sports officially closed, meaning if you hadn’t put your name into it, you had decided to stay right where you were.

To say the portal for Carolina has been active is putting it mildly. Right when we thought things were going to proceed without any more changes, D’Marco Dunn announced he was going to put in his name at, essentially, the last second. As Brandon noted, it opened up a third scholarship for 2023-24.

The moves are not done by a long shot. Just because the entrance is closed doesn’t mean the exit is. This is especially important as players go through the pre-draft process, they may not be actively seeking a new home at this moment because they want to see what their NBA prospects are, but once that process is complete for them they’ll start seeing what chairs are left. There’s also the elephant in the room of reclassification. Last year, GG Jackson announced he was going to reclassify in July, and without an open roster spot, Hubert Davis had to watch him go on to South Carolina. There have been reclassification rumors galore with Elliot Cadeau, and the triple-double he put up in the Nike EYBL event on Friday is just going to add gas to that fire.

Still, we have absolutely hit a big milestone in the roster-building process. We now know that if a player isn’t graduating and they haven’t announced they are entering the portal, they are staying with their team for the upcoming season. So, with all of the movement who is actually staying at Carolina?

With respect to Rob Landry, Creighton Lebo, and Beau Maye-here are the names that have decided do return to the Carolina bench:

Armando Bacot

Clemson v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It’s amazing to think about that Bacot has been at UNC since before the Covid pandemic. His first season was the Cole Anthony season where things circled the drain quickly, but he has been the consummate Tar Heel. He has seen coaching changes, point guard changes, had two seasons affected by the COVID-19, and along the way been perhaps the best representative for UNC you could ask for. There really isn’t much else to say about Bacot, except that the 2023-24 season is Bacot’s last chance at an NCAA Title. Those COVID seasons gave Bacot an extra year of eligibility, and another year to take advantage of NIL opportunities. The moves that Davis has made since the season seem to imply how focused the offense will be on getting him the ball more, and he’ll have the opportunities to get the number 5 in the rafters.

RJ Davis

Virginia v North Carolina Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images

Davis’ career at UNC has been one filled with grit, big shots, and unfortunately, injury. Last season he was really hampered by injuries at multiple times, but time and time again he’s shown he has a great shooting ability. It became clear during the season that RJ Davis and Caleb Love couldn’t coexist in the back court as both wanted to be the ball-dominant guard. That situation appears to have been alleviated for next season with Love moving on to Michigan.

The question that most fans have at this point is with the very loud rumors of Elliot Cadeau deciding to reclassify and joint Carolina next season is if we are in for a repeat of last season. Here’s the thing: if the rumors had gotten to the point where we are talking about them, then those actually on the team know what’s going on and likely a lot more. Davis is still here after the portal closed, which means if this reclassification happens he’s aware of what it means for him. It’s also worth noting that if Cadeau comes in, he much more of a true point guard than Love, which would likely alleviate the issues that Love and Davis had sharing the backcourt last season. The great thing is that RJ still has one more season of eligibility thanks his first year being the COVID season, so this may not be it for him.

Seth Trimble

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images

Seth Tremble came to Carolina with four stars and a lot of hope to be able to provide some relief off the bench for the main starters. He ultimately wasn’t able to get some consistent run, but he did see his minutes per game creep up to about 10. However, he was only able to bring about two points per game to the table. He only has one made three pointer last season, and shot only 45.5% overall, which probably explains the limited minutes. Despite the movement in the offseason, Tremble has remained, intending to use his experience with Hubert Davis this past season to give him a leg up early on.

Jalen Washington

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last season was never going to be a big one for Jalen, he suffered a knee injury near the end of his prep career and he came to Carolina still recovering from it. He made his brief debut against Georgia Tech in early December, but aside from the 27 minute effort he put up against Virginia when Armando Bacot was injured, Washington would never play more than eight minutes in a game. He usually would only play about four, with Bacot getting the majority of the time down low. Now fully healthy and with a full offseason to be able to work with the team in a basketball environment, there should be a visible jump in his game for the 2023-24 season.

While Bacot is likely going to stay anchored around the basket, Washington appears to be the type of four that Hubert Davis has been aiming for-think Brady Manek. Coming out of practice last season, he called Washington “the best shooting big man coming out of high school that I’ve ever seen.” The biggest reason Carolina had their white-hot success in the 2022 NCAA Tournament was that Brady Manek was able to stretch the defense with his shooting, and it opened up so many other options. If Washington can provide a similar look, it would go a long way in boosting the success of the Tar Heels next season

We’ll see what the transfer portal and reclassification process brings Carolina with the other three scholarships remaining. Still, with this base of players that are returning and the freshmen and transfers already committed, the potential is there for 2023-24 to be a fun one in Chapel Hill.