Courtney Banghart was dealt a difficult task last season after being hired to replace Sylvia Hatchell, who reached over 1,000 victories and won the 1994 national championship with UNC before resigning as the head coach of the North Carolina women’s basketball team in 2019.
After amassing a 16-14 record, Banghart's first season in Chapel Hill was filled with with plenty of highs and lows.
In the early stages of the season, the Tar Heels jumped out to a 16-6 record, blazing out to a 7-4 split in the ACC and handing a top-10 N.C. State squad its first loss of the season. As the season wore on, the team began to falter, and an 0-8 ending to the season finished in a loss to Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament that all but eliminated any postseason hopes.
Despite the late-season slide, Banghart established a new foundation for the program to build on. Here is a look at how the team can carry over its early-season success and move forward into 2021.
An immediate challenge UNC will face is filling in the gaps of impact players who have graduated. The Tar Heels will lose three starters from a season ago, Madinah Muhammad, Taylor Koenen and Shayla Bennett, who all averaged double figures in scoring last season.
Banghart has wasted little time making noise on the recruiting trail, which should help the Tar Heels replace their graduating talent.
The incoming recruiting class is led by Deja Kelly, a five-star guard who is ranked 10th in ESPN’s recruiting rankings. Her ESPN profile described her as a “poised combo-guard (who) brings consistent production off the dribble in mid-range game” and was “already an elite guard yet continued to raise during the season.”
Along with Kelly, the class also features two more players in the ESPN top-100: Anya Poole and Alexandra Zelaya. Poole, a five-star forward from Southeast Raleigh High School, ranks No. 49 in her class according to ESPN. Zelaya, a four-star forward from Arizona, ranks No. 98. In Poole’s ESPN profile, she is described as an “athletic-4 (who) competes on the glass, rebounds and initiates the fast break.” Zelaya’s offensive arsenal appears to be more perimeter-oriented, as ESPN described her as an “agile faceup-4 performer (who) stretches the defense to the arc.”