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UNC basketball: Brandon Huffman will make his case for starting center

Does Huffman have the tools to start right away?

Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

The North Carolina Tar Heels are fresh off a national championship, but these kinds of achievements tend to result in offseason challenges. UNC lost its entire starting frontcourt with Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks graduating and Justin Jackson forgoing his senior season for the NBA draft. Excitement for next year’s squad never wavered, that is, until Tony Bradley elected to keep his name in the draft. His decision leaves an enormous hole down low for the Tar Heels. The question now becomes who can fill that hole? Many are hoping it will be Brandon Huffman.

Huffman is a six-foot-nine, 250-pound center from Raleigh, North Carolina. In his senior season with Word of God Christian Academy, he averaged 16.1 points, 14.2 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. Despite it being against worse competition than he will face in college, Huffman’s stats reflect his ability to own the paint. The Tar Heels will need this sort of domination down low from him sooner rather than later.

Huffman will arrive in Chapel Hill as a part of a class that includes four other players, two of which (Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley) will battle for minutes with him in the post. The competition for a starting spot at the five is largely between Huffman and Brooks (assuming Roy Williams doesn’t go really small and slide Luke Maye to the five). While not quite as highly regarded recruiting-wise as Brooks, Huffman figures to have the upper hand at least for the time being. Huffman is slightly bigger than Brooks and is more of a true center.

North Carolina doesn’t need a high volume post scorer as much as they need just a big body to anchor the post. Huffman fits the bill. He possesses great strength around the basket and is very comfortable in the paint. His length and timing make him an excellent rim protector. His long arms also allow him more room to shoot over people. Huffman’s back-to-the-basket game is not quite where it needs to be, but he does a great job of carving out space and getting the shot he wants. Look for him to become a deadly low post scorer at some point in his career at UNC. Huffman does not have amazing speed. He can still get up and down the court fine, but that is another area he will have to work on if he wants to be the next great Carolina big man.

The fact of the matter is that Huffman, as well as Brooks and Manley, will be asked to do more than was expected when they originally committed. The hope is that he can develop quickly and be able to bang around with ACC bigs by the time conference play rolls around in January. Huffman will get plenty of chances to show he belongs. It remains to be seen whether that rings true in his freshman season.