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UNC basketball: Will Seventh Woods take the next step forward?

The athletic sophomore guard will look to expand his role from last season.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Texas Southern v North Carolina Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The North Carolina Tar Heels are coming off a very accomplished year in which they were able to win the ACC regular season as well as the National Championship. While they suffered many losses to the draft and graduation, they were able to retain arguably the most important piece of that team in starting point guard Joel Berry. This fact obviously bodes well for next season’s squad, but it creates an intriguing scenario for rising sophomore Seventh Woods.

Woods spent much of last season on the bench, serving as a backup to Berry. He also had to play behind Nate Britt, who would take over lead guard duties at times when Berry was out. Now that Britt has graduated, Woods has a chance to snatch some of those minutes. However, incoming combo guard Jalek Felton generates another issue in terms of Woods’ potential playing time.

If he isn’t careful, Woods could end up in a similar role as he had last season. In 7.7 minutes per game, he averaged 1.5 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. To go along with that, he averaged 1.1 turnovers, roughly giving him a lousy 1:1 assist to turnover ratio.

The good news for Woods is Roy Williams tends to give his older guys opportunities to establish themselves before younger guys. That’s not to say Felton couldn’t surpass him in the lineup at some point, but Woods will likely begin the season as the primary reserve guard.

Other good news for Seventh Woods is that he’s a very good basketball player, which tends to go a long way in earning playing time. Woods showed flashes of his potential at various times throughout last season. His athleticism and quickness made for some SportsCenter top 10 caliber plays.

One play in particular stood out to me, partly because I was in attendance for the game. UNC was taking on the Tennessee Volunteers in the Dean Dome in early December. Down by five with time winding down, Woods delivered one of the nastiest spin moves you will see and laid the ball in. He would go on to lead a Joel Berry-less team to a gritty victory.

This game was a great experience for Woods, because even though it was ugly at times, he managed to make just enough plays to secure the win. With UNC down by as many as fifteen, Woods displayed excellent leadership skills to get his teammates to rally back. He reassured Tar Heels fans that the future is bright.

There are some areas Woods needs to work on, though. He tended to be a little careless with the ball at times last season. As a high volume scorer in high school, he seemed to have trouble adjusting to being a role player. Every time Woods touched the ball it appeared as if he felt obligated to make a play. While not entirely a bad thing, it resulted in a few too many needless turnovers. He did improve this habit, maintaining much more control towards the end of the season.

Overall, Seventh Woods brings a lot to the table for the 2017-2018 Tar Heels. He will attempt to make his mark as a flashy playmaker in a crowded backcourt full of shooters. I firmly believe Seventh Woods will live up to the hype that started back when he was in eighth grade. It’s only a matter of time.