The Future of UNC

I think there’s no denying that the current UNC team are inexperienced and they’ve been getting a lot of criticism for the mistakes made this year.. but it’s not all bad, at all.

Let’s take a quick look at what the statistics say about University of North Carolina’s Freshmen Class and what does the future look like?

The Stats.

UNC is ranked 323rd most experienced team, out of 342 teams. 7 out of 11 of our rotation are freshmen and playing 50.8% of the minutes played.

Freshmen have made 35 starts this season; Caleb Love (14), RJ Davis (10), Kerwin Walton (8). This is the fourth most in the nation.

Freshmen are third, fourth and fifth in the scoring charts for the Tar Heels (Love, Sharpe, Davis). First time there are three freshmen in the top 5 in scoring since 2006-07, with Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson. They ended up having quite a good UNC career (and NBA).

Freshmen have scored 53.1% of UNC’s points this year and that’s the second highest in any season at UNC. Only a team from 2002-03 stacked by May, Felton, McCants and Noel scored a higher percentage of the teams points when they were scoring 62% of the points.

Caleb Love is joined by great company as a young starting point guard with this being the eighth time Coach Williams’ has started a freshmen at PG for a majority of the season. (Frasor, Lawson, Marshall, Paige, Britt, White and Anthony).

Caleb Love, RJ Davis and Day’Ron Sharpe have been ballin’ this year too, all winning ACC Freshman of the Week this season. First time three players have won this award since 2010-11 after Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock picked up the award.

The Future.

If we look at past Tar Heels mentioned already; Rashad McCants, Sean May, Raymond Felton, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson. These players stayed for a few seasons and all got to cut down the net as a NATIONAL CHAMPION.

Will the freshmen from this year stay a few seasons in Chapel Hill? There’s talks about Love and Sharpe leaving school early, Walker Kessler is being touted a future NBA player. Although we know we’re not a One and Done school (forget Little and Anthony we knew that was going to happen and Coby was a surprise and he deserved it!), will any of our freshmen be off this year?

I know we’ve made offers to three out of the top 10 recruits in next year’s recruiting class of 2021 but not even my biased Tar Heel heart could convince me that they’ll sign (prove me wrong universe!).

BUT…. Armando Bacot (Best UNC Player this year? Potentially) is still only a Sophomore and Leaky Black still has one more year left before graduating as a Senior. Our future looks in good hands.

This Season.

From how we’ve been playing, you will see the Tar Heels in Indianapolis in March, for how long.. that is the question. Our current best prediction is UNC making the second week in March then we’ll likely be against a #1 seed. Joe Lunardi has recently said in his latest ESPN article that we will be against Gonzaga in the second round and well, I like playing Gonzaga (2017).

Tar Heels, what do you think our future looks like?

Another championship banner in next few years?

UNC Big’s Ceiling

I try to think back to when we had such potential in the Big’s position at UNC. You can go back to 2016/17 with Maye, Meeks, Hicks and Bradley (that’s a championship calibre team.. oh wait).

But if I compare our current Big Four of Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler, would you class them as better than the 2017 Big’s?? I might say so.

In the 2020/21 Big Four you have; three 5 star recruits out of High School (Bacot, Sharpe, Kessler) and 1 Pre Season ACC Player of the Year (Brooks), now I know we have a young back-court this year and we’re leaning on our forwards to really step up.. and they are.

The Big Four from 2016/17 Ceiling

  • Luke Maye is currently playing in Italy, with some time in the NBA G League.
  • Kennedy Meeks has been enjoying his professional basketball career in Japan since graduating.
  • Isaiah Hicks is currently on same team with Meeks in Japan following some time in the NBA G League and few games in NBA with New York Knicks.
  • Tony Bradley has been in NBA since his one year at UNC and over past two seasons is getting a lot more minutes for Utah Jazz and now Philadelphia 76ers.

The Big Four from 2020/21 Ceiling

  • Garrison Brooks was named Pre Season ACC Player of the Year with some NBA Mocks Drafts taken him late second round.
  • Day’Ron Sharpe came in as a five star recruit and has been exceeding expectations on the court, some NBA Mock Drafts had him going in this year’s draft late in first round (I don’t see him declaring this year).
  • Armando Bacot has stepped up this season, most improved player? I’d say so. Some drafts saying late second round (I see him staying for his Senior Season).
  • Walker Kessler has been talked about with a long NBA career already, but is fourth in the line up of this Big Four. I see Walker in the NBA, but maybe in a couple years.

Compare Statistics of the Big Four’s

NameMPGPPGRPGBBG
Kennedy Meeks24.312.539.451.18
Isaiah Hicks22.311.825.460.74
Luke Maye14.15.543.940.2
Tony Bradley14.67.082.550.58
(Source: basketball.realgm.com)
NameMPGPPGRPGBBG
Garrison Brooks28.310.27.131.0
Armando Bacot22.912.077.670.67
Day’Ron Sharpe20.19.477.730.8
Walker Kessler6.92.42.270.4
(Source: basketball.realgm.com – latest 25/01/2021)

Obviously the 2017 Big Four went on to win the National Championship with the help of a super talented and experienced back-court. What is the potential for the 2021 Big Four? I expect to see us in March but am I predicting this through Carolina Blue tinted spectacles?

Another question is, how much effect has Sean May had on our current Big Four? Sean is one of the most talented Big’s we have had at Chapel Hill and Coach William’s quotes him as one of the most intelligent. This can be only good for the ceiling of potential for our current Big Four.

I guess only time will tell the potential of our forwards in Chapel Hill, but I am pretty excited to see it all unfold.

What do you think?

Tar Heels in Europe

The dream for so many College Athletes is to step onto the courts of the NBA.. but it is well known that only the best of the best can get there. There are currently 13 Tar Heels playing in the NBA, but they’re not the only professional athletes making a living from playing ball.

The Tar Heel Times announced that we have 25 Tar Heels who are playing professional basketball internationally. There is University of North Carolina Alumni hooping on the four corners of the earth and here is an update on the players who have taken their talents to Europe;

Brice Johnson – Budivelnyk (Ukraine)

We were lucky enough to have Brice at Chapel Hill for his whole college career and he was a monster on the boards (tying Psycho-T’s rebounds in a season) and had such a connection with Paige throughout his time at UNC. Brice got drafted to the NBA with the LA Clippers, but since 2018 he has had 9 different teams on his resumé from the G League to across Europe, now finding himself in Kiev the capital of Ukraine.

Budivelnyk have the most championships in the Ukrainian Super League, but had to withdraw from the league due to debt issues. But this season after two years out they’re back and finding themselves 7th out of 11. Brice is still getting boards and had a season high of 19 points in October. There is still 5 games left of the season, I wonder if Brice and Budivelnyk could push higher up the table by the end of the year.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGRPGBPG
ORLANDINA
(ITALY)
2019/2032.417.3511.180.82
CHORALE ROANNE
(FRANCE)
2019/2025.413.295.430.43
BUDIVELNYK
(UKRAINE)
2020/2121.010.796.290.79
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Marcus Paige – Partizan Belgrade (Serbia)

Marcus Paige is one of the most loved Tar Heels in recent years (he’s in my top 5 players, that’s a conversation for another time). I don’t want to talk about it, but…. he nearly had the greatest shot of all time, could have been bigger than ‘82, but then.. Jenkins.. still not over it. Since then Paige has spent some time in the G League, he had a two-way NBA contract before heading over to Serbia in 2018.

Marcus Paige for THRREEEEE.. who can remember that? Nothing has changed. Paige broke the team’s record for most three pointer’s in a game this season and Paritzan Belgrade have made it into the Euro Cup (second biggest tournament in European Basketball). He’s still got ice in his veins!

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGAPGSPG
PARTIZAN BELGRADE
(SERBIA)
2019/2022.39.931.880.79
PARTIZAN BELGRADE
(SERBIA)
2020/2125.09.241.960.72
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Joel Berry II – Besiktas (Turkey)

Joel had an ‘Outstanding’ Tar Heel career including a National Championship and MOP at Final Four. I still wonder if he stayed in the draft in 2017 would his draft stock have been higher after the championship.. either way, thank you Joel you brought us memories that will last a life-time.

Since leaving Chapel Hill, Berry spent time in the G League at South Bay Lakers and Greensboro Swarm before flying to Europe to play for Besiktas in Turkey (yes that team Deron Williams played for during the lock-out). Joel is the new starting PG since joining November 2020 and about to head into the FIBA Europe Cup. Joel Berry II is a champion and let’s see if he can win some more silverware in Europe.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGAPGSPG
BESIKTAS
(TURKEY)
2020/2124.08.252.750.5
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Luke Maye – Trento (Italy)

“MAYE FOR THE WIN… NORTH CAROLINA… INCREDIBLE SHOT!!”, yes that shot over Kentucky is a long-lasting memory and what a career Luke had at UNC including a National Championship. Remember the videos of him in class the next day too, what a player. Luke was picked up by Wisconsin Herd in the G League after graduating and then last year heading over to Europe to get some Italian sun.

Luke Maye was just announced the Euro Cup MVP of the Week, so it’s fair to say his first season abroad is going quite well. He just had a 25 point and 15 rebound game. I know we have Drake Maye stepping onto campus next year, but Luke is still making noise.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGRPGDBL/DBL
TRENTO
(ITALY)
2020/2124.111.485.673
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Deon Thompson – Baloncesto Malaga (Spain)

A NCAA Champion, a Slovenian Champion, a German Champion, an Israeli Champion, a Serbian Champion, an ABA Champion, a Lithuanian Champion.. Deon Thompson is a CHAMPION!!

For the past 10 years Deon has played across Europe including in the EuroLeague (the top league in Europe and my opinion seconds best professional league after NBA). With the amount of championships Thompson has won, at 32 years old I do not see him slowing down.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGRPGSPG
UNICAJA MALAGA
(SPAIN)
2019/2020.89.113.230.89
UNICAJA MALAGA
(SPAIN)
2020/2118.49.063.890.48
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Baden Jaxen – Odessa (Ukraine)

Baden Jaxen, or likely known to Tar Heel fans as Dexter Strickland, has had quite the career. He played on a stacked team with Barnes, Marshall, Henson, Zeller (got on a SLAM Magazine cover) and then went through heartbreak with his torn ACL in his Junior Year.

Baden went undrafted in 2013 and then took his talents abroad, he went back to the US for some time in the G League (D-League back then), but has been playing internationally ever since. After wanting to change his life after witnessing a bunch of events (reason behind the name change) and feeling more inspired, Baden now finds himself in the Ukrainian League and will go up against Brice Johnson soon.

TEAMSEASONPPGRPGAPG
VEF RIGA
(LATVIA)
2018/1910.42.81.9
BC SAMARA
(RUSSIA)
2019/2011.32.31.6
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: eurobasket.com)

Christian Keeling – Glasgow Rocks (United Kingdom)

Christian spent most of his college days at Charleston Southern, but became a Tar Heel when he transferred in his Senior SZN.

Now you can find Keeling in Scotland, playing in the British Basketball League for the Glasgow Rocks (same team Nate Britt played for). On his debut he had 26 points and is now averaging over 16 points a game in his first 5 games, CK has really taken to the U.K. and I personally hope to see him play this year if we can get to any games due to the pandemic.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGAPGRPG
GLASGOW ROCKS
(SCOTLAND)
2020/2131.616.82.23.0
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Jean-Pierre Tokoto – Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel)

AIR-PIERRE!!!! THE HUMAN HIGHLIGHT. JP Tokoto had some great years for the Tar Heels. Since leaving UNC early to go into the NBA Draft, JP has played professional basketball all over the world with most of that time in Israel.

JP now finds himself with Hapoel Tel Aviv (the same team Nate Robinson played for a few years ago). You can still see him leading in the stat columns with a 20-10 game at the end of year. The team is currently 2-5 but Tokoto is still performing as a professional basketball player and still ending up on the highlights.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGAPGRPGSPG
IRONI NES ZIONA
(ISRAEL)
2019/2031.414.214.146.292.21
HAPOEL TEL AVIV
(ISRAEL)
2020/2123.012.03.334.51.5
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Nate Britt – Panthers Schwennigen (Germany)

Nate Britt (NATIONAL CHAMPION) has enjoyed quite the career so far in professional basketball, playing in the United Kingdom, Argentina, Cyprus and now in Germany.

Britt is playing in the second tier of German basketball for the Wiha Panthers Schwennigen and has started the 2020-21 season strong. Nate is averaging over 15 points and over 5 assists a game, there’s no doubt that Nate has a long career ahead in professional basketball.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGAPGRPGSPG
OMONIA NICOSIA
(CYPRUS)
2019/2033.714.523.624.141.76
WIHA PANTHERS
(GERMANY)
2020/2130.115.235.463.771.77
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Justin Pierce – Kobrat (Finland)

Justin Pierce was another Senior transfer with Christian Keeling after spending most of his college days at William & Mary. Pierce averaged 5 points a game in the Carolina Blue, but my oh my has he taken to professional basketball.

Justin signed for Kobrat in the top Finnish league and was fourth on the leading scorers charts with a season high of 31 points. Sadly, the scoring has been put on hold due to the amount of games that have been postponed in Finland, lets hope Pierce can get back to shooting form when the games are back.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGRPGAPG
KOBRAT
(FINLAND)
2020/2128.318.425.252.67
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Justin Watts – Donar Groningen (Netherlands)

Justin Watts (NATIONAL CHAMPION), Justin was a freshman when we won the 2009 championship and then played his full four years at Chapel Hill. Since graduating Justin has travelled A LOT and enjoyed playing professional basketball all over the world.

He was an All Star in Japan, a champion in Australia and now recently in 2021 has signed to play for Donar in the Dutch Basketball League. At 30 years old Watts is not slowing down and expecting to get more championships under his name.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGRPGSPG
WILKI MORSKIE SZCZECIN
(POLAND)
2018/1923.89.933.141.29
PIENO ZVAIGZDES
(LITHUANIA)
2018/1922.98.83.60.9
DABROWA GORNICZA
(POLAND)
2019/2027.614.673.331.0
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Marcus Ginyard – Limoges CSP (France)

Marcus Ginyard (NATIONAL CHAMPION) a lockdown defender for the Tar Heels during his time with us, defensive players of the year… twice! Since graduating Ginyard has had a successful professional basketball career playing in countries like; Germany, Israel, Poland, Ukraine, Greece, Macedonia, Romania and now finding himself in France.

Marcus is currently playing in the top division in France and coming off the bench averaging 18 minutes a game with Limoges with a 4-4 record.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGRPGAPG
CSP LIMOGES
(FRANCE)
2019/2026.79.863.051.05
CSP LIMOGES
(FRANCE)
2020/2119.86.552.271.18
Statistics are up to date as of Jan 22nd 2021 (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Ty Lawson – Kolossos Rodou (Greece)

NCAA Champion, Bob Cousy Award Winner and ACC Player of the Year, there’s no denying Ty’s time at UNC was legendary (I don’t use that term often), then he enjoyed a solid career in the NBA. Now coming to the end of this time on the court, but not wanting to slow down, he’s still balling but now internationally finding himself in the Greek Basket League.

Ty was dropped by his Chinese Basketball Associaition team due to social media posts, but now finds his next adventure in Greece (with Enes Kanter’s brother on his team) and said in a recent interview hoping his team will make the playoffs.

Honourable Mention: there was rumours Raymond Felton signed for a team in Czech Republic, but Felton listened to an offer but never officially signed and then due to the COVID-19 pandemic he stayed at home in Houston.

Honourable Mention: North Carolina Mr Basketball 2016, Will Graves, has been playing professionally in Europe and was last playing in Cypriot League, but currently does not have a team.

Hey Tar Heels, are any of your favourite players now overseas? Tweet me.

JP Tokoto vs Leaky Black

“HE HAS TOKOTO WITH HIM…. NORTH CAROLINA LEADS WITH THE REVERSE HAMMER SLAM!!!!”

If you watched the Tar Heels play from 2012 to 2015, you would have been accustomed to seeing an Air Pierre Highlight on Sports Center. Jean-Pierre Tokoto was recruited out of Wisconsin and played with the likes of Marcus Paige, Joel Berry and Justin Jackson before leaving Chapel Hill his junior season to go play professionally.

Tokoto was a fan favourite and a great team-mate, but his athleticism is obviously what he’ll be remembered for, the ability to make highlights out of thin air, trust me.. YouTube it. Although that wasn’t the only attribute JP could bring to the court, JP was a lockdown defender. Making the All ACC Defensive Team in Sophomore year and ranked top 4 in assists and steals (only player who was not a PG too), basically JP hustled!!

Fast forward a few years later and coming out of Concord, NC (home of Basketball) was a 6ft 7 wing named Rechon Black, better known as Leaky Black. Leaky started off in a packed UNC team with Coby White, Cam Johnson and Nassir Little, so didn’t see as much minutes. Then in his Sophomore and now Junior Season we’re seeing Leaky getting some bigger minutes and he’s stepping up (see ND game on Jan 2, 2021).

Leaky just like JP led the team in steals in his sophomore season, also being second in the assists column too. Leaky isn’t a big scorer, but there is so much more of what he does on the floor that makes him invaluable to the Tar Heels. JP and Leaky are both not big scorers and you’re not going to rely on them from behind the arc, but heck you know they’re going to get on that floor if you need them too.

Jean-Pierre Tokoto is currently playing in the Israeli Premier League for Hapoel Tel Aviv, after terms in the NBA G League, Australia National Basketball League and in Spain. JP will always be a Tar Heel favourite.

With Leaky getting more minutes in his junior season and likely his Senior Season next year too, there’s no denying the Leaky has a future in professional basketball as well.

UNC CAREERJP TOKOTOLEAKY BLACK
PPG6.755.26
APG2.742.17
RPG4.384.26
SPG1.81.07
AST/TO1.631.65
STL/TO0.710.81

Tar Heels, what do you think about this comparison?

Photos: ballislife.com and keepingitheel.com