The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday July 25th

A look at UNC basketball's future frontcourt after Walker Kessler's commitment

Head coach Roy Williams answers questions during a press conference on Saturday, March 23, 2019.
Buy Photos Head coach Roy Williams answers questions during a press conference on Saturday, March 23, 2019.

On Sunday night, the North Carolina basketball team secured the talents of 7-foot high school senior Walker Kessler, who committed to the Tar Heels after finishing his official visit this past weekend. Kessler had previously taken visits to Auburn, Duke and Michigan, and was also weighing an offer from Gonzaga, among others.

UNC's 2020 class is likely far from a finished product, as it's currently made up of just two players. As it stands, though, Kessler, the No. 15 player in the class of 2020, stands alongside fellow top-flight prospect Day'Ron Sharpe as Williams' first recruiting class to feature two 5-star big men since Ed Davis and Tyler Hansbrough in 2008.

Add in likely returners Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley and Armando Bacot, and you're looking at North Carolina's most talented group of big men in some time. 

Though Kessler projects as an average athlete for his size, his game boasts a surprising amount of versatility and touch. The Fairburn, Georgia native told 247Sports that the UNC staff showed him film of Luke Maye, explaining that they would like to use him in a similar way, and that "being a big that can shoot and stretch the floor was really appealing.”

Sharpe, conversely, is a force of nature, a raw athlete who can refine his game in Chapel Hill with the help of Williams and his staff. Highlight tapes of the Winterville, N.C. product show him finishing dunk after dunk and swallowing rebound after rebound. In Chapel Hill, Sharpe could see an Isaiah Hicks-type trajectory as a strong, physical talent who adds levels of nuance to his game over time. As the No. 17 player in his class, Sharpe weighed offers from Georgetown, Florida, and N.C. State, among others, before committing to UNC in June of 2018.

Brooks, Manley, and Bacot, as well as the two newcomers, all stand at 6-foot-9 or above and could see time as part of a deep rotation of big men for UNC. A dominant frontcourt is a signature of Roy Williams title teams, and it seems the 2020-21 Tar Heels will have just that.

In 2005, Sean May led the way. In 2009, it was Hansbrough. In 2017, UNC won the frontcourt battle through attrition: Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley and Luke Maye. Williams' staff is perhaps the best in the country at developing big men – 2021 could have just the right mix of talent and experience down low, and just the right recipe for a national championship bid.


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