In the one-and-done era of college basketball, early season attention usually goes to the team with the latest big-time high school recruits. However, postseason success often favors the well-constructed rosters, balanced with youthful talent and veteran experience.
Relatedly, a lot has been made of the job head coach Roy Williams did on the recruiting trail this offseason ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. Williams snagged five-star point guard Cole Anthony, five-star big man Armando Bacot Jr., four-star combo guard Anthony Harris and 3-star guard Jeremiah Francis from the high school ranks, along with graduate transfers Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce.
Their arrival in Chapel Hill brings excitement and hope for another championship. It has also shifted attention away from the players that are already here and will continue to contribute. Here are three returning Tar Heels that will be vital to a successful season – and maybe even to hanging another banner in the Dean E. Smith Center.
During his sophomore year, Brooks took large strides, earned the trust of Roy Williams and was rewarded with major increases in playing time on his way to becoming one of the Tar Heels' primary big men. Brooks jumped from 14.6 minutes per game in his first season in Chapel Hill to 23.0 minutes in his second.
The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds, both increases from his first-year averages of 4.5 and 3.5, respectively.
With the addition of Bacot, North Carolina may look to revert back to an inside-out focus offensively, playing bully ball in the paint in its half-court sets. If that's the case, Brooks could easily see continued growth in these areas.
With Seventh Woods deciding to transfer to South Carolina, Brandon Robinson is the lone senior who saw valuable minutes for the Tar Heels last season. After sophomore Leaky Black went down with an ankle injury, Robinson saw his minutes increase, and he made the most of them.
The Douglasville, Ga., native averaged 11.9 minutes a game while shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 46.0 percent from 3-point range.
This year, the 6-foot-4 guard will be in prime position to battle for a starting job in the backcourt alongside Anthony. His length also adds value on the defensive side of the ball for a North Carolina team that likes to switch on screens. If Robinson can keep his shooting averages high, expect him to play an even larger role in his last season as a Tar Heel.
This time last year, Black was part of a trio of first-years that generated plenty of hype for the Tar Heel faithful. Since then, rookie partners in crime Coby White and Nassir Little have declared for the NBA Draft after standout seasons.
After missing a chunk of the season due to injury, Black will return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore campaign and should have a big impact in the upcoming year.
At 6-foot-7, the Concord, N.C., native has the length and ability to legitimately defend three positions. On offense, Black showed an ability to handle the ball and run the North Carolina offense. If Williams decides to play him as a combo guard again, he should have success operating on the elbow over smaller guards.
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