Who knows what the 2020/21 season will be to Tar Heel fans in many years to come? How will we look back at it? It was a season that a lot of people shared their frustrations, then there were moments of hope that we could end up dancing in March and we did… not like that team down the road.
North Carolina’s season ended earlier than expected, but it did bring moments to get excited, scream and cheer at the TV screens and be proud to call ourselves Tar Heels. It did bring some fun highlights as well, and we would find ourselves scrolling through our social media feeds and watching them over and over again.
Let’s take a look at the countdown of the Top 10 Plays of the Year for the Tar Heels.
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10. Garrison Brooks or Kevin Durant?
It was Senior Night, the last time we will see Garrison Brooks at the Dean Dome (potentially) and it was against Duke. After Brooks’ ankle rolled in the first few moments of the game on Matthew Hurt’s foot, the Tar Heel Nation’s hearts sunk. No one wanted his final game here to end like that… Brooks didn’t either.
Brooks came back into the game and finished with 14 points from 6 of 9 shooting. Two of his field goals came from behind the arc and he had multiple highlight plays to help with the dominating win. None more so than an “in your face Duke” fadeaway in the corner over… Matthew Hurt.
Garrison made 6 three pointers as a Tar Heel, 2 of those were in his last game. Hey, what happens if he started taking those shots earlier in his career? Yes he probably would have been benched.
9. Kessler went coast-to-coast to Europe!
Walker Kessler had himself a game to remember in the ACC Second Round vs Notre Dame. The 7 footer had 16 points, 12 boards and 8 blocks, Walker was having a block party and everyone was invited!
As much as he was shining on the defensive end, offensively he was cooking too. The highlight play for me was the outstretched steal with his Stretch Armstrong arms, that led to Walker dribbling the ball (okay, 3 dribbles) down the court and finishing off with the very light footed Euro-Step.
I know the guards and bigs are constantly joking with each other, I want to know what Kessler was saying to the guards after that fancy footwork.
8. Bacot meets Bates in the air!
Armando Bacot has had 62 blocks in his two years at Chapel Hill and any block against NC State is going to be highlight worthy. When Manny Bates tried to dunk on Roy Williams Court, Armando had something to say.
UNC took down State 86-76 in January and Bacot’s block was a pick of the good plays from the game. In the words of Jones Angell “…dishes to Bates who is SWOTTED by Bacot! What a block from Armando!!!”
There were many blocks I could have included in the Top 10, from all of our bigs, but Bacot’s swot on the glass against the Wolf Pack took the win for me.
7. Caleb Love’s steal and slam!
UNC went up against Luka Garza and Iowa early on in the season for a tough matchup. It didn’t take us long to see the Caleb Love athleticism that we saw in his High School mixtapes.
Love was able to get the steal and before he was falling out of bounds, he had the awareness to pitch it forward to RJ Davis. Caleb had one thing in his mind in this play and he wanted the ball back. RJ provided and Love showed off with one of his many huge slams he had this season.
Also, I can’t get enough of Love’s flex every time he dunks, if the student section isn’t flexing during his dunks next season… they’re missing a trick.
6. Andrew Platek for the win, it couldn’t be?
Wait… Leaky Black to Andrew Platek for the game winner? I bet there were UNC ‘fans’ losing their mind after this play against Miami in January. That’s exactly what happened. In my opinion, Black and Platek get lots of unnecessary criticism from so called fans and this is one of many moments that these two showed their worth.
After Miami tied the game with 16.4 seconds remaining, Coach Williams let the boys play out the rest and Leaky Black was the ball handler. After Black pulled some defenders in, he was able to kick it to Platek, who still had a lot of work to do. Platek then drove out two defenders and SOMEHOW got the ball over them to go in. Miami with no timeouts left, launched a hail-mary and Platek’s shot was the game winner.
Dickie V was on commentary, you can love him or hate him, but Dickie’s noises on a big college basketball play adds to the effects.
5. Sterling had us balling on Senior Night!
Okay, maybe this is higher than it should be, but this play got me all in my emotions on Senior Night. Sterling Manley’s North Carolina career was cut short for awful circumstances due to the multiple injuries. Coach Williams said not long before this game, that he wasn’t sure if Manley would be able to play as they were concerned for his recovery.
Coach put Sterling in near the end of the game and the bench was going wild, the fans in the Dean Smith Center were going wild and everyone was just happy to see Sterling on the court. Little did they know what was going to happen next…
Andrew Platek saw a darting Manley heading towards the hoop and rewarded Manley with the alley-oop pass for the dunk. THE CROWD LOST IT. TWITTER LOST IT. The ball goes down the other way and a Dookie decides to drive into the danger area, Sterling Manley was pumped up already and there was no way he was letting that in. Manley with the block and that was the nail in the coffin on Senior Night!
4. Leaky Black has ice in his veins!
Leaky Black involved in a game winner again? It couldn’t be! The Tar Heels were down by 1 against Notre Dame in the final moments and the man of the moment was Leaky. For me, a game-winner when the game is tied and a game-winner when your team is down is completely different. When you’re down, it’s either make it or a put a cross in the loss column.
Black was the player with ice in his veins that night. He was able to see an opening for a drive, coming off the screen from Garrison Brooks and Black took the contact, laid it off the glass and put North Carolina up by 1 with just a few seconds remaining.
Leaky Black was the glue guy this year, the glue guy may not make all the highlight plays, but it’s everything else they do that goes unnoticed. Black is that guy and against Notre Dame, he was the guy!
3. RJ DAVIS IS HUSTLIN’
This play here reminded me of one of my favourite Tar Heel plays. Marcus Paige dived for the out of bounds ball, it went to Leslie McDonald that led to JP Tokoto with the slam (watched it so many times!). Fast forward 7 years later and another out of bounds save, this time from RJ Davis that led to a dunk!
UNC were facing Wake Forest and the Tar Heels were pressing. RJ Davis was able to poke the ball away, save it with a beautiful behind-the-back pass to Leaky Black, who then fed it to Armando Bacot for the slam. It was the awareness from Davis to go for the ball and get it to a team-mate.
I also recently wrote a piece on Freshman Marcus Paige vs Freshman RJ Davis and their comparisons, give it a read.
For me, a hustle play is always going to make it high up on my Top 10 list.
2. Day’Ron SHARPE IS AIRBORNE!
Day’Ron Sharpe may be one of the most powerful and explosive big-men we’ve had in Chapel Hill for many years. There have been numerous occasions of Sharpe dominating the boards with a put-back dunk and if a guard put the ball up near the hoop, he would go get it!
UNC were one point away from free biscuits with their dominating win over Louisville in February. Sharpe led the game with 21 points and 11 rebounds and two of those points were especially highlight worthy. Day’Ron started off the play with good hands to get the steal, then he had a give-and-go with RJ Davis, who then sent it up for special delivery with Sharpe’s name on it and… POSTER!!!
My favourite part of this play was someone from the bench could see what was about to happen next and you just hear “UH OH…. UH OH!!!!!”. UH OH INDEED.
1. Caleb Love hates Duke.
I think it is fair to say, Caleb Love hates Duke University. If only we could hypnotise him and convince him that he’s playing Duke every week, I will put money into that GoFundMe.
Early February, it was Caleb Love’s first game at the Hansbrough Indoor Stadium for UNC and we were introduced to Caleb Love hating Duke. Love ended the game with 25 points, 4 from 5 from outside and a MONSTER POSTER that I’m sure was many of Tar Heel Nation’s phone wallpaper the very next day.
Like many of UNC’s top plays this year, it started with a steal. Love and Day’Ron Sharpe doubled up Jordan Goldwire and the ball was poked free with Love capitalising on the loose ball and he headed down the court to TAKE-OFF. Caleb Love threw down one of the most monstrous jams we’ve seen in a Duke/Carolina game for many years with a poster on Jaemyn Brakefield.
Caleb was also fouled on the play and then he knocked down the AND1 free-throw. This got the Tar Heel Nation pumped up for the remainder of the rivalry game and also made it as Number 1 on my Top 10 UNC Plays of 2020/21.
I hope you enjoyed my recap of the Top 10 UNC Plays of 2020/21, it was tough to cut it down to 10… it was even harder to try and order them.
Are there any top plays that you would have added into your Top 10?
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‘Ceiling is the Roof Podcast’ has lots of guests lined up for the summer and I’m really excited for you to hear from former UNC basketball players and what life has been like for them since they graduated from Chapel Hill.