Key Departures: Garrison Brooks (–>Miss St); Day’Ron Sharpe (NBA); Walker Kessler (–>Auburn)
New In Town: Dawson Garcia (<–Marquette); Brady Manek (<–Oklahoma); Justin McKoy (<–Virginia); Dontrez Styles (#65); D’Marco Dunn (#67)
State of the Program:
The Hall of Fame career of Roy Williams is over in Chapel Hill, with successor in waiting Hubert Davis ready to take the reins of one of the more storied programs in history as his first HC gig. It’s a tall order to try and fill the shoes of one of the most legendary coaches in the sport, but to be gifted such a storied program as your first job is most certainly a gift more than it is a curse. He will inherit an extremely talented roster that in the era of mass player movement gets back a majority of its contributors a year ago. The question will be around Davis and the style of play he will deploy. Will he maintain the fast paced run and gun style Roy Williams was so successful with all of these years or bring his own style to the program? That is the ultimate question, but without an answer until the games get under way we will have to assume things will at least look similar, given his only experience as a coach is under Williams as an assistant. He gets back starters Armando Bacot (JR), Caleb Love (SO), Leaky Black (SR), and Kerwin Walton (SO), along with talented role players RJ Davis (SO), Anthony Harris (JR) and Puff Johnson (SO). This gives the Tar Heels one of the most talented returning groups in the country, and Davis has added a couple transfers and Freshman to help surround this experienced core. All of this talent puts expectations sky high in year 1 of the Hubert Davis era.
The best of the incoming class is breakout big man from Marquette Dawson Garcia (SO). Garcia was a top-50 recruit in last year’s class that was special a season ago, showing off his pretty stroke from the left side in the pick and pop game. He also has ability off the bounce to attack and finish inside, and if he can improve his activity defensively he could develop into a first round pick. He will play the role of a stretch big alongside Bacot inside forming an elite frontcourt. Brady Manek (SR) also enters the Tar Heel frontcourt, as the likely 3rd man in the rotation serving as a stretch big. He’s not the athlete that Garcia is, which is why I believe he comes off the bench, but he’s a career 37% shooter and will help spread the floor and provide relief for Garcia and Bacot. The last transfer is 6’8” F Justin McKoy (JR) who did not play much in his two years with UVA and comes home to UNC where he will likely have a similar role this season. Two Freshman come to campus ranked very similarly, the first being 6’7” wing Dontrez Styles (#65). Styles comes in as a gifted athlete who has a good mid-range game but really excels when attacking the basket, especially in transition. If he fills out some and improves his consistency from outside he projects as a small ball 4 that can have a productive 3 or 4 year career at UNC. He will have to battle a deep group of wings this season for playing time but is someone to keep an eye on down the road. The last of the newcomers is 6’4” G D’Marco Dunn (#67). Dunn’s greatest weapon is his jump shot, as he’s a gifted scorer of the basketball at all 3 levels. He’s not the most athletic but his dribble pull up is lethal and once he adjusts to the college game and expands his skillset he could be a double digit a game scorer for the Tar Heels, with a chance to one day claim an All-Conference selection. He will also have a chance to compete for backup minutes and leapfrog some of the returners, especially if he can shoot it consistently.
All of this returning talent to pair with Garcia and Manek coming in put the Tar Heels squarely in the National conversation after a down couple of seasons. Love and Bacot formulate a dangerous 1-2 punch, especially with another year of growth after leading the team in scoring a year ago. They have 11-12 guys who are legitimate high major talents, so depth will be a strength, as will size as they should once again dominate the interior. The potential weakness I see for this group is outside shooting just like last season, as they were 13th in the ACC in 3-point shooting and last in FT%. Garcia and Manek were brought in to help with just that, and the freshman wings will surely improve their efficiency. I think the Tar Heels are being undervalued Nationally in the pre-season as they have so much more experience than some of these teams the media is falling in love with early. Give me 5-star talents in their 2nd or 3rd year over a collection of 18 year olds any day. The trepidation may be the coaching change, but Hubert Davis has been molded for this and has the structures in place around him that make me believe this will be a seamless transition. I think the Tar Heels can win the ACC and have a shot behind Love and Bacot to make a deep run in March.