Sophomores Seventh Woods, Brandon Robinson and Shea Rush aren’t at the bottom of the totem pole anymore.
The quartet of first-years turned into a trio of sophomore returners after forward Tony Bradley was selected 28th overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2017 NBA Draft. He was selected, of course, after the North Carolina men’s basketball team won the 2017 national championship.
These three sophomores reached the summit of college basketball during their first season.
“I’m happy we put up a banner, but I just don’t want to settle for one,” Robinson said. “I want to win another one.”
The road en route to another historic season starts with the guard from Columbia, S.C. During Woods’ first season, he tied a school record by appearing in all 40 games for the Tar Heels. He led the then freshmen by averaging 7.7 minutes per game and finished the season with a total of 49 assists, 42 turnovers and 21 steals.
With Joel Berry II’s right hand injury, Woods has room to step up for his team in Berry’s absence during the beginning of this season.
Robinson followed close behind Woods by appearing in 37 games and averaging 7.6 minutes per game during his first year.
“Brandon is shooting the ball really well,” head coach Roy Williams said. “He’s doing some good things. He can’t gain any weight, but he’s doing some good things.”
He’s 6-foot-5 and 170 pounds, but he plays larger than his size. His abilities as a lengthy perimeter player could be beneficial this year for UNC, especially after considering that he tallied 28 assists and 14 turnovers in a small sample size last season.
Rush walked on to the team last season as a first-year and received the news from Williams in September that he was on scholarship.
During his first season, Rush appeared in 20 games for a total of 33 minutes and scored 15 points for the Tar Heels.
In UNC’s exhibition game against Barton College on Oct. 27, Robinson was 2-4 with 4 points. And Woods, who started the game at point guard, was 2-6 with 4 points. There is room for improvement for both players, but they will have chances to grow and get better as the season progresses.
“He was dribbling too much and trying to look to see if he could drive," Williams said of Woods. "But if you move the ball two or three times, then you can always drive a lot easier because you’ve moved the defense. He’s been more confident in the preseason.”
Heading into the start of the season on Friday night against Northern Iowa, it’s clear that Robinson and Woods will have the chance to embrace new roles this season. Woods will have an outright chance to prove himself at the point guard position, and Robinson is a flexible player that Williams can use at the forward and guard position.
“I think just over last year and coming to this year, we just learned a lot,” Robinson said. “This offseason, we had the mentality that we were going to work hard and improve, and we’ve done that.”