Assistant sports editor Jared McMasters caught up with Teonni Key, ESPN's No. 22 overall player in the class of 2021, to discuss her recent commitment to the North Carolina women's basketball team and more. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
The Daily Tar Heel: What set UNC apart from everyone else and stood out to you?
Teonni Key: It was the coaching staff, their vision for the future and what they have planned. The way that, in only a year, you've seen the vision change and the program change in a good direction. And UNC — as a school — is just a great place as well.
DTH: Was your decision something that you've been debating up until you announced your commitment on Saturday? Or was it something that you've been sure of for a long time?
TK: I committed about a week ago before announcing it. In the weeks prior to that, it was just really big for me to talk to the coaches, get more of an understanding for what campus life is like and how that would be for me there.
DTH: Since your sister plays at Tennessee, how much of a struggle was that for you to commit to UNC and know that you wouldn't be playing with her?
TK: Honestly, it wasn't that big of a deal for me. Yes, playing with her would've been great, but just going wherever was best for me and wherever best suited me was the biggest thing in my decision.
DTH: What about staying close to home? Cary's only about 30 minutes from Chapel Hill, so how much did that factor into your decision?
TK: At first, staying close to home wasn't something that I really wanted to do. But I went through the process and really just got closer to the coaches and realized how UNC is such a great place on its own. Even though it is close to home, it's a lot different than I expected, in a good way. It's a good thing that I'm home.
DTH: What stood out to you most about Courtney Banghart's coaching style and leadership?
TK: What stood out the most was just how she's brought life back to the UNC women's basketball program. Since I live so close, I've been around there quite a while, and to see that it's going in the right direction is really great. Her vision for the future is also amazing.
DTH: What would you say is probably the strongest aspect of your game that stood out to her the most?
TK: My strongest aspect would definitely be my versatility. It's definitely hard to match up with me, defensively and offensively. I can guard bigs, I can guard guards and mismatches on the offensive end are hard to guard as well.
DTH: With that versatility, where do you see yourself fitting into the lineup the best?
TK: Definitely either the three or the four spot. But the way that the program is being run, it honestly isn't that big of a deal because everyone's really versatile. With what she's trying to do, everyone's been versatile.
DTH: On the flip side, what's an area of your game that you think Banghart or your future teammates could help you develop more?
TK: Definitely the speed. Going into the ACC, it's a faster pace of basketball, so I think that's something that I'll probably need to work on a lot. The speed on offense and defense and just being able to have that first step on the offensive and defensive ends.
DTH: Who are some players you've sort of looked up to or tried to model your game after?
TK: I've definitely looked up to (sophomore forward) Malu (Tshitenge). I had to get on the phone with her before I committed and all that just to see how it was for her to get her experience because she was a successful freshman. Just getting to know her and seeing how her first year was for her and the staff was definitely a big part of it.
DTH: Looking ahead to UNC's incoming 2020 class and your 2021 class, there's already multiple five-star commits, so how high of a ceiling do you think the Tar Heels will have when you arrive?
TK: There's definitely, definitely gonna be some championships — ACC and national, hopefully. Just deep runs into the playoffs and great teams. It's going to be really good.
DTH: In preparation for all of that, how have you had to adjust your workouts and everything in the middle of this pandemic?
TK: Yeah, with all the gyms closed, I've had to doing a lot of outside stuff. I've been shooting outside and lifting with dumbbells and stuff rather than my more intense normal workouts. But it's not too bad. It's going well.
DTH: Glad to hear it. Away from the court, though, is there a message or something about yourself you'd like for UNC fans and the Chapel Hill community to know?
TK: I'm just a fun person. I like being around fun people, good people. And going to UNC, I'll definitely be around a lot of good and funny people. I'm looking forward to it.
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