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UNC Basketball Summer Preview: Elliot Cadeau

Will the offseason hype translate to on-court success?

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament Quarterfinals - Virginia vs North Carolina John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

We are nearing the end of August, and with such, we have reached the finale of our summer previews. Despite leaving two open scholarships, Hubert Davis and his staff did well in reshaping this roster to fit both his and Carolina’s style of basketball. The dudes from the transfer portal provide experience and reliability in select areas. The acquisition of four-star Zayden High bolsters the Heels’ big man depth with a guy who could potentially stretch the floor. However, there’s one newcomer whose impact could be more significant than anyone else’s: Elliot Cadeau.

Past Previews links:

Armando Bacot

Cormac Ryan

Paxson Wojcik

Jae’Lyn Withers

RJ Davis

Jalen Washington

Harrison Ingram

James Okonkwo

Seth Trimble

Zayden High

Cadeau committed to the Tar Heels in December of 2022 as a member of the 2024 class. After months of speculation surrounding a potential reclassification, Cadeau put an end to the suspense and made it official in May. The addition of such an elite playmaker couldn’t be better timing for a Carolina offense that was often stagnant last season. The program hasn’t had a player with Cadeau’s level of passing abilities/tendencies since Kendall Marshall in 2012.

Over the past year or so, Cadeau made huge strides in the high school ranks with his explosiveness, elite vision, and high IQ on full display. He set the GEICO Nationals record for assists with 29 of them over three games. Through the first two sessions of the EYBL circuit, he averaged a double-double (11.5 points and 10.5 assists) while shooting 38.5% from three and 93.1% from the free throw line. Cadeau capped off the fourth and final session with a ridiculous 29-point, 15-assist performance as his NH Lightning defeated the Oakland Soldiers, 110-96.

By all accounts, Cadeau is something special. It’s not just about his skill set, it’s that he tends to make an especially positive impact on his team. After going 13-4 and averaging 83 points per game in the spring with Cadeau on the roster, the NH Lightning went just 1-4 through five games at the Peach Jam without him, averaging 69.2 points per game. Regardless of any trepidations folks might have in regards to how Cadeau fits with this particular Carolina roster, it’s most certainly better with him than without.

Speaking of those trepidations, the most obvious concern is how he will mesh with RJ Davis. I have expressed before that I believe these two actually make much more sense together than some are willing to believe. Despite both being undersized at 6 foot or below, their playing styles are unique from one another. Davis is a score-first guard who relies on quickness to get to his spots and shoot over the defender. Cadeau is an elite athlete and playmaker who’s always looking to find his teammates first.

While it’s true that Davis has spent significant time at point guard, and the Heels have been better for it, it’s difficult to compare that situation to the current one. Davis and Caleb Love certainly enjoyed their share of success together, but it often felt like they did it independently. Like Davis, Love has a score-first mentality and is even less of a true point guard. The fact that things ran smoother with Davis running the offense can partially be attributed to Carolina not having another viable option.

Well, that is no longer the case. Cadeau is the type of point guard that does wonders to the smoothness of an offense. While I doubt he’ll completely give up ball-handling duties, Davis should have no issue moving off the ball. He’s been one of the most effective players shooting off the catch, he just hasn’t had as many opportunities. Given the competitor and team player he is, Davis should be willing to sacrifice some ball dominance for better efficiency and even potentially higher overall scoring.

If Cadeau and Davis are able to coexist in a productive fashion, everything else should fall into place. Armando Bacot and James Okonkwo are the types of big men that will excel in the pick-and-roll with Cadeau. His court vision and passing precision should generate plenty of open shots and scoring opportunities for the rest of the squad. Most importantly, Cadeau brings a speed that’s been missing the past few seasons. His presence could ignite the return of vintage Carolina basketball, spearheaded by the vintage Carolina fast break.