Cole Anthony called him “my guy.” Garrison Brooks said “tough situations” last year made him deserve this all the more. Armando Bacot lauded him as a “do-it-all" player, while (correctly) guessing that few people outside UNC know his name. At least a few more in Chapel Hill know it now.
Andrew Platek had the best game of his career in No. 9 North Carolina’s 76-65 win over Notre Dame, putting up eight points, four rebounds and two assists in a career-high 25 minutes.
Tame numbers, sure, in comparison to first-year phenom Anthony’s 34-11-5 line and even Brooks’ 10-point, nine-rebound outing. But, in talking to the reserve junior guard afterward, you got the feeling this one went beyond basketball.
“It’s crazy,” Platek said. “Only really my family and the people close to me know what I've been through these past two years and how hard I've worked to have this opportunity. It’s been the hardest thing in my life, but I'm so grateful.”
When senior guard Brandon Robinson sprained his ankle in an exhibition last week, Platek knew he’d take on a heavier load. But his first-half playing time was still a surprise — he played no more than 11 minutes in a game last season, yet here he was logging 12 in the first half of an ACC contest.
Within a minute of subbing in, he grabbed an offensive rebound, passed it out to Justin Pierce and worked a smooth pick-and-pop with the forward on the left sideline, tossing the ball over his shoulder to an open Pierce for a 3-pointer. He grabbed another offensive rebound and hit a three of his own before halftime.
“He’s getting the time he deserves now because he's worked so hard,” Brooks said. “People are going to see those shots going in all the time like I'm used to in practice. Proud of the way he plays.”
The Tar Heels dominated the second half in every facet — and that was thanks, mostly, to Anthony, whose 34 points set an ACC and UNC record for the most in a first-year’s debut.
But when an Anthony 3-pointer gave UNC a 55-50 lead and Notre Dame registered a quick miss at the other end, it was Platek — not Pierce, or Christian Keeling, or Anthony himself — who sank a key three of his own, which forced a Fighting Irish timeout and gave the Tar Heels a cushion they’d lacked.
“When opportunity knocks,” Platek said, “I'm going to answer.”
His best — from an aesthetic standpoint — was yet to come.
North Carolina was running like a well-oiled machine and leading 63-52 when Brooks rose up for a clean block of Notre Dame guard T.J. Gibbs. And when Platek corralled the loose ball, he didn’t hesitate. Rather, he took off, led a 3-on-1 fast break and tossed up a soft lob to Bacot for a dagger of a dunk.
“This is going to be a really big year for him,” Bacot said.
Head coach Roy Williams took a more measured approach, noting in his postgame news conference Platek’s main defensive target, Notre Dame’s Prentiss Hubb, went for 22 points while still labeling the second-half three as “really important.”
In the players’ lounge minutes later, Platek settled into a high-top chair wearing a Sonic the Hedgehog T-shirt and an uncontainable smile. He was quick to compliment Anthony’s confidence, Brooks’ defense on Notre Dame star John Mooney, Bacot’s floor running on the aforementioned alley-oop.
But when the questions came about him and his performance, he was candid: this one really seemed to come at the right time.
“To be out for more than a few minutes a game, to have an impact, to feel like I did something to help my team win and not just sit on the sideline and cheer, even though that's important,” he said. “It felt good to leave my mark on the game.”
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