The 2019-20 North Carolina basketball team will feature a lot of new faces, at least in the bulk of head coach Roy Williams’ rotation.
The Tar Heels will lose their five leading scorers – Cameron Johnson, Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, first-year Nassir Little, and first-year Coby White, who on Wednesday joined Little in declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft.
After White's exit, the Tar Heels will retain just 23.4 percent of their scoring, with Garrison Brooks leading that group of returners with 7.9 points per contest.
The good news is that the sophomore big man will have some help in a bolstered frontcourt, despite the loss of graduating players Maye and Johnson, the team’s two leading rebounders this past season.
Incoming five-star Armando Bacot of Bradenton, Florida, is one of the nation’s top centers, ranked as the 21st best player in his class by 247Sports and the sixth-best at his position. Bacot has a long wingspan and nice touch around the rim, projecting as a productive, offensive-minded big man.
Additionally, an offseason of recovery could benefit sophomore forward Sterling Manley, who battled injuries in 2018-19. If all goes well, the trio of Brooks, Bacot and Manley could return the Tar Heels to the big man-dominant days of Roy Williams yore.
The other current member of UNC’s 2019 recruiting class is Jeremiah Francis, a three-star point guard from Pickerington, Ohio. Francis was projected as one of the best guards in his class before suffering a knee injury before the start of his junior season, but he has shown a propensity for physical and unselfish play in the backcourt.
Much remains up in the air regarding UNC’s incoming class, currently ranked 49th in the country by 247Sports. That ranking could shoot up, however, pending the decision of five-star point guard Cole Anthony, the crown jewel of uncommitted high school seniors, who recently narrowed his college list to Notre Dame, Oregon, Georgetown and UNC. Of his final four schools, 247Sports lists Anthony as having a 90 percent chance of picking UNC.
Anthony, the No. 4 player in his class, has discussed his desire to go to a Final Four, and of the teams on his list, North Carolina is surely his best bet to do so.
One of the possible roadblocks standing in the way of Anthony becoming a Tar Heel was White returning for a sophomore season, which would have limited Anthony’s on-ball opportunities and forced him to share the draft-hype spotlight. White leaving sets the stage for an Anthony-led backcourt in Chapel Hill.
Another potential blue-chip Tar Heel is Precious Achiuwa, a five-star small forward from Bronx, N.Y. The 6-foot-9 Achiuwa is an explosive and versatile athlete, one who could be plugged into Little's old role and find immediate success getting to the rim and battling for rebounds underneath. He would also bolster UNC’s collection of wings, made up of Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black and Andrew Platek.
Next year’s senior class will consist of guards Seventh Woods and Robinson, who this season averaged a combined 5.9 points in 22.7 minutes per game.
Woods had an up-and-down season, failing to crack double-digit minutes in a March game and posting a total of three assists and five turnovers in three NCAA Tournament games.
Robinson, meanwhile, proved to be a valuable cog as the season progressed, shooting 46 percent from 3-point range (in limited attempts) and adding solid defense and playmaking.
Still, it would be unfair to expect the same level of production from next year’s seniors that was present for this team's veterans. The 2019-20 Tar Heels will inevitably have to lean more on their younger talent, which they hope will include Anthony and Achiuwa.
With lots still to be decided on the recruiting front, a repeat of an ACC Championship season will be a difficult, but not impossible, hill to climb for the Tar Heels.
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