As the NBA approaches All-Star Weekend, former North Carolina men's basketball player Wayne Ellington is having a breakout season with the Miami Heat, while some members of the 2017 national championship squad are attempting to find their place in the basketball world.
Ellington, the 2009 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, is in his ninth NBA season, and he's helping propel the Heat up the Eastern Conference standings. In arguably his best season yet, Ellington is averaging 11.2 points per game and shooting just over 40 percent from behind the arc. He has made the fourth most threes in the league this season, and ranks 26th in percentage — making him one of the best statistical shooters this season.
That shooting paid off, as Ellington accepted an invitation to the 2018 NBA All Star Weekend 3-Point Contest on Thursday.
Off the court, Ellington is proving himself to be a consummate professional, and his work ethic has drawn notice from around the league. According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Hornets head coach Steve Clifford points to Ellington as an example of how a player can improve through hard work.
Tony Bradley, the 28th pick in the 2017 draft, has struggled to make an impact with the Utah Jazz. With the Jazz, Bradley has spent most of time on G-League assignments and has only appeared in eight games.
The rookie big man did not make much of an impact in any of those appearances. His most impressive performance was a four-point, three-rebound showing against the Thunder on Dec. 20.
However, Bradley has shown promise in the G-League. He is averaging a double-double of 15.5 points and 10.3 rebounds a game in 15 appearances.
Justin Jackson, who recently had his jersey honored in the Smith Center, has also spent time in the G-League.
Unlike Bradley, however, Jackson is getting more playing time in the NBA, averaging 17.4 minutes per game with the Sacramento Kings. He has started occasionally, but his meager 4.9 points per game and 30.4 percent 3-point shooting have relegated him mostly to a bench role.
Despite what may be considered an underwhelming start for the 15th overall draft pick, Jackson is getting advice from a current teammate and fellow Tar Heel. In a true show of brotherhood, Vince Carter is encouraging Jackson to stay confident and keep working at his game, per Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee.
“That’s one thing we talked about earlier in the year,” Carter told Jones. “With his work ethic and his ability, he’s going to be around a long time."
While Jackson and Bradley have spent some time in the NBA, the two starting bigs on North Carolina’s 2017 championship team are looking to prove themselves in the G-League.
Isaiah Hicks is posting 15.2 points and 8.3 rebounds a game for the Westchester Knicks, the G-League affiliate of the NBA Knicks. His impressive play has him hoping for a chance to get called up to the NBA.
Kennedy Meeks, who went undrafted, signed a contract with the Toronto Raptors on June 22. The contract was waived in October. Meeks is averaging 12.6 points and 9.2 rebounds with Raptors 905, the G-League team coached by Tar Heel graduate Jerry Stackhouse.
Nate Britt is continuing his basketball career in Scotland. He signed with the Glasgow Rocks of the British Basketball League (BBL) in December. Britt has been posting solid performances with the Rocks, averaging 11.2 points and 3.8 assists a game on the third-place team in the BBL.
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