The trio accounted for nearly 63 percent of UNC’s scoring last season and more of the same will be expected of them this year.
“We’ve got lots of kids that can bring the ball up the floor,” Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “(There’ll be) lots of dribble drive, lots of penetration, lots of two-man games. And we’ve got lots of 3-point shooters.”
Last year, Cherry (30.7 percent) led the team in 3-point efficiency, while Watts (29.2 percent) and Walker (26.7 percent) weren’t far behind. The three combined for over 600 attempts from beyond the arc — while no other player attempted more than 12.
Though they have only combined for four seasons, the guards are the Tar Heels’ most seasoned veterans.
“With Jamie and Stephanie and Destinee, they didn’t have any subs last year,” Hatchell said. “So minutes wise, they probably played as many or more minutes than most juniors in the country.”
After transferring from Vanderbilt in 2015, redshirt sophomore guard Paris Kea will split time in the backcourt this season.
Kea’s versatility and scoring ability should take the pressure off North Carolina’s other guards and add depth to a backcourt that desperately needed it a season ago.
“Having to sit out last year, I had to fill in different positions as a practice person not being able to play,” Kea said. “So I learned all the positions and their roles and what they do.”
The guard’s ability to play multiple positions will help the Tar Heels with its lineup flexibility — allowing them to play a four-out, one-in style with four shooters on the court at a time.
And with a backcourt more proven than its frontcourt, the team will want as many guards on the floor as possible.
Front court concerns
UNC has more questions than answers in its inexperienced frontcourt unit.
With Hillary Summers graduated, redshirt senior forward Hillary Fuller — who missed last season with an injury — is the only frontcourt player on the roster with collegiate experience.
Because of the Tar Heels’ depth issues down low, first-year forwards Emily Sullivan and Alyssa Okoene will get the opportunity to make an immediate impact. In 2015, Summers had the same chance and ran with it — leading UNC in rebounds per game (7.8) and finishing fourth in points (10.6).
While they’re raw prospects, Sullivan and Okeone have too much athleticism and size for Hatchell to resist.
“Both Emily and Alyssa will rotate a lot,” Hatchell said. “They’re both big and long, lanky, can score around the basket.”
“They’ve just got to learn.”