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UNC basketball: What to expect from Sterling Manley in 2017

Is the freshman center ready to contribute right away?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Orlando Practice Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2017-2018 North Carolina basketball roster almost entirely set (still waiting on the Cameron Johnson debacle to wrap up), it is time to start looking ahead to what each player will bring to next year’s team and what types of roles they will play. The first player we will examine is Sterling Manley.

Manley is a six-foot-ten, 220-pound center from Pickerington, Ohio. He averaged 16.1 ppg and 8.5 rpg in his senior season at Pickerington Central High School. As a three-star recruit, a player such as Manley would normally not be asked to do much in his first year with UNC. He is more of a project player than an instant impact type. This is no normal year, though.

The Tar Heels lose the overwhelming bulk of their frontcourt production from last season. Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks exhausted their eligibility and Tony Bradley left early for the NBA. Justin Jackson, while not a conventional big man like the other three, also bolted for the pros. These four players combined for over half of UNC’s rebounding production last year. That leaves Luke Maye as the lone returning post player for the reigning champs.

This lack of proven size down low creates an intriguing situation for Roy Williams, who prefers his teams to play inside out. He will look to Manley, as well as fellow incoming forwards Garrison Brooks and Brandon Huffman, to fill that void.

Manley brings much-needed size and length to Chapel Hill. He adds a strong, solid rebounder with a knack for protecting the rim. Offensively, Manley is still very raw. He’s got decent touch around the basket, but his game does not extend much beyond the paint.

Manley will battle it out with Huffman and Brooks for the vacant starting center spot, but most believe the job will be won by one of the latter two. Barring some very quick development, Manley will likely be providing just a few minutes off the bench this season. However, between his high ceiling and Roy Williams’ staff’s impeccable ability to advance talent, Sterling Manley is a player to keep your eye on throughout the offseason.