Following a dominant 91-73 victory over Duke on Senior Night, North Carolina basketball fans can now look back at the careers of four players who gave so much to the program over the last four years.
The senior class of Garrison Brooks, Andrew Platek, K.J. Smith and Walker Miller arrived in Chapel Hill in 2017, just months after the Tar Heels won a national championship. A high standard existed the moment they stepped foot on campus, but the four of them earned the opportunity to be honored in their final home game on Saturday.
Brooks started 16 games as a first-year — including his first game — and became a full-time starter during his sophomore season. After being a complementary piece to the Tar Heels' success in his first two seasons — playing alongside players like Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and Coby White — Brooks broke through in his junior year campaign.
Last season, Brooks posted career highs in points, rebounds, assists and made field goals, and scored 30 or more points in two games, including a career-high 35 against Georgia Tech. He was rewarded for his impressive numbers with a second-team All-ACC selection.
Brooks is one of 78 1,000-point scorers in the history of UNC men’s basketball, with a career total of 1,256 points entering the ACC Tournament. In addition to his accolades, his leadership has been invaluable to younger Tar Heels teams of recent years.
Platek began his journey alongside Brooks and played sparingly behind the reigning Final Four Most Outstanding Player Joel Berry and Kenny Williams in his first two seasons. But as his career progressed, Platek saw an increase in minutes during his last two years in a Tar Heel uniform.
This increase in playing time was a testament to the trust he earned from head coach Roy Williams. Though he did not post eye-popping numbers, averaging only 2.7 points for his career, he became a key role player and contributed within the team dynamic. His career highlight came earlier this season in January, when he hit a game-winning floater with just seconds remaining to defeat Miami, 67-65.
K.J. Smith originally played for the University of Pacific before arriving at UNC and sat out during the 2017-18 season before stepping onto the court as a Tar Heel. His father, Kenny Smith, was also a Tar Heel, and played from 1983-87 before entering the NBA. K.J. paid homage to his father by donning the No. 30 jersey he wore during his playing days.
Smith made his first career start at UNC during his junior year, though he played a backup role during the majority of his career. Although his college career did not begin at North Carolina, he still became a player who was embraced by fans.
Miller joined the Tar Heels in 2017 as one of four first-year bigs, including Brooks, Sterling Manley and Brandon Huffman. Miller, like Smith, did not see much time on the court, but became a recognizable figure among UNC fans.
From Greensboro, Miller also had family ties to UNC. His brother, Wes, won a national title with North Carolina in 2005, and Walker shares the No. 22 jersey that his brother wore during his tenure. Though he did not serve as a consistent rotational player, he was recognized with the rest of the senior class in his last game inside the Dean Dome.
As the Tar Heels' season continues into the ACC Tournament, this senior group's legacy is not finished. But Saturday's win over Duke meant their time playing in the Dean E. Smith Center ended on a high note by defeating their crosstown rival.