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UNC basketball preview: Key gains and losses

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A quick look at the additions and subtractions to the UNC basketball program

North Carolina Tar Heels Championship Welcome Rally Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

It’s always hard to look back on a team that lost significant talent. This season is no different, as North Carolina fans said goodbye to an entire six-man rotation. Fortunately, there are seven players stepping foot on campus to fill those voids.

The Tar Heel Blog will take a more in-depth look over the next week at this year’s team. Below is a quick glance at the talent that UNC lost from last year, and who will step up to take their place.

Key Losses

Justin Jackson - Picked 15th in the NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings, the loss of Jackson was not unexpected. With an average of 18.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, his departure leaves an All-American sized hole on the wing. Maybe Joel Berry can keep the ACC Player of the Year award in Chapel Hill this season?

Tony Bradley- A season in which various metrics indicated he was one of the best freshman big men in college was enough to convince him that the NBA could not wait any longer. Poised to be a dominant anchor on this year’s team, he instead was selected by the Utah Jazz with the 28th pick. It’s hard to fault anybody for achieving their dream, but UNC fans will always wonder “What if,” when thinking of Bradley’s non-existent sophomore season.

Kennedy Meeks- After four memorable, if not occasionally frustrating seasons, Kennedy Meeks left Chapel Hill as arguably the best defender on a National Championship team. His 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game will be sorely missed as well. The consummate teammate, nobody encapsulated the growth and development that Carolina offers quite like Meeks.

Isaiah Hicks- Hicks may not have quite lived up to the hopes that some had for him before last season, but it’s difficult to hate on 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. If anyone questions what he meant to this team, remember he didn’t play against Duke in Cameron. We all know how that turned out.

Nate Britt- The back-up point guard and part-time shooting guard could have started on approximately 300 other Division-I teams. Instead of transferring, he hung around and became perhaps the most undervalued player last season. In fact, his play in the final minutes of the first half against Oregon may have saved UNC’s title hopes. Senior back-up point guards are a luxury that UNC does not have this year.

Stilman White- I have an irrational respect and admiration for this guy. I don’t care who knows it. However, senior walk-on Aaron Rohlman does bear a striking resemblance. Conspiracy theorists may say they are related, or even the same person.

C.B. McGrath- Any time a staff loses a top-notch recruiter and long-time confidant, it leaves a noticeable gap on the bench. There is no doubt that Roy’s staff won’t miss a beat, but it’s never easy to lose a top assistant - especially one that was part of all three title runs since Roy returned. Best of luck to McGrath at UNC-Wilmington.

NCAA-sized Monkey: The Committee on Infractions decided the NCAA enforcement staff never had a case against UNC in the now-finalized AFAM saga. That meant zero sanctions befell the University. Judging by the disturbing amount of articles still being published by a Triangle-based newspaper referencing the case, I’m not sure everyone has heard the news. Regardless, that decision was followed by UNC’s first top-10 commitment since 2014, and a slew of other 5-star recruits scheduling official visits to Chapel Hill. That’s a loss we can all support.

Key Gains

Jalek Felton- The most hyped freshman of the 2017 class, Jalek Felton is finally on campus after committing over two years ago. A freak athlete who has not quite learned to harness his energy into consistent production, Felton provides a dynamic playmaker in the backcourt. With the ability to play point guard and shooting guard, he gives the staff flexibility to search for the most potent lineups.

Brandon Huffman- Once he established himself in North Carolina, after playing his first two years of high school ball in Alaska, Huffman began shooting up the recruiting rankings. He finally settled at #91 in 247 Sports ranking, after initially starting below 200. You can’t teach size or aggression. At 6-10 and 250lbs, Huffman has both. A powerful, unpolished post player, he just wants to block shots and throw down dunks.

Sterling Manley- Not to be outdone, Manley weighs in at 6-11 and 240lbs. Another diamond in the rough, Manley comes from Reynoldsburg, Ohio where he slipped under the radar after breaking each leg during his high school career. Likely a four-year project (with, in my opinion, the most upside), he’ll add to the great triumvirate of freshmen post players and have normal ups and downs that freshmen experience.

Garrison Brooks- Projected as the starter alongside Luke Maye, Brooks is the most “college-ready” of the three post players. After decommitting from Mississippi State, the Heels swooped in and made him the cherry on top of a robust recruiting class. At 6-9 and 215lbs from Lafayette, Alabama, Brooks is poised to show the college basketball world that Roy Williams absolutely plays freshmen if he needs them or if they are good enough. Brooks may just check both boxes.

Cameron Johnson- In a surprise offer, the basketball staff waded back into graduate transfer territory and grabbed a potential two-year starter in Johnson. Coming from conference opponent the Pittsburgh Panthers, Johnson has the talent to minimize any major dip in production Jackson’s departure created. Averaging 14.3 ppg as the third option in a slow tempo offense, his 41% success rate from three should find a way to contribute to the perimeter threat.

Andrew Platek: A sharpshooter from Guilderland, New York, Platek will see limited action in his first college season. Most of his work will likely be simulating the opponents’ best shooters on the scout team. His time will come. With so much talent already on the perimeter, that time is probably not this season.

Walker Miller: See above. Just substitute “sharpshooter” and “New York” with “6-10 post player” and “Greensboro, North Carolina.” A preferred walk-on and the brother of former UNC three-point assassin Wes Miller, Walker will get plenty of reps on the scout team as he prepares for a four-year journey.

2017 National Championship Banner: They hate us, ‘cuz they ain’t us.