“They’re both high-level basketball players, so I don’t expect them to be any different from where they came from,” he said.
Pierce, who played three seasons at William & Mary, doesn’t seem to lack confidence in making the jump from the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) to the ACC.
The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds for the Tribe last season. He shot 41.6 percent from deep as a sophomore, but a broken wrist in the offseason hampered his shooting ability in 2018-19, when he shot 32.4 percent on 3-pointers.
"Ask any good shooter, to take three months off without shooting, it's really hard," Pierce said. "I get a lot of questions about that – why my percentages were down last year. But you can ask anyone on the team, I can shoot the ball."
As a de facto power forward for William & Mary, he stretched opposing defenses with his ability to knock down 3-pointers.
“I know I’m not the biggest guy, especially in the ACC level,” Pierce said. “But Coach has talked about when I’m at the four, it’s a two-way street. I might be undersized, but it’s gonna be tough for ACC forwards to chase me around the perimeter.”
Keeling should also help the Tar Heels, who lost their top five scorers from last year’s team, put points on the board. The 6-foot-3 guard played three years at Charleston Southern and averaged 18.7 points and 6.9 rebounds last season.
The Augusta, Georgia native was an All-Big South first-team selection for the 2018-19 season and a second-team selection for the 2017-18 year.
Sophomore guard Leaky Black said the leadership Keeling and Pierce bring to a relatively young squad is just as valuable as their on-court production.
“Just bringing their experience to us and just showing us what they can do,” Black said. “Basketball is pretty much the same — things like help defense and stuff like that. It’s just another leader.”
Perhaps the team's most important leader, though, will be Robinson, the lone contributing senior on the Tar Heels’ roster. He’s also the only remaining scholarship player from the 2016-17 national championship team.
Robinson — who averaged 3.4 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists last season — knows he’ll have to take on a bigger role in all facets of the game. Luckily for him, he has a couple veterans around him that are on the same mission.
“At the end of the day, all we want to do is win,” Pierce said. “This group’s really special. We’ve got no egos, and we’re gonna do whatever it takes to help us win a national championship.”
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