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Analysis: UNC women's basketball brings diversity of skills with its wing core

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Sophomore guard Kennedy Todd-Williams (3) dribbles at the scrimmage against her teammates at Late Night on Oct. 15.

In head coach Courtney Banghart’s third year at the helm of the North Carolina women's basketball program, the team will have a reliable combination of players on the wings. Expectations are high this season for the Tar Heels, who are looking to make a jump from their 13-11 finish last season.

The team lost former graduate transfer Stephanie Watts after last season, as she was drafted in the first round of the WNBA draft. Watts averaged 12 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Tar Heels last year.

Banghart has an abundance of depth at the shooting guard and small forward positions at UNC, which includes two highly touted first-years, two returners who contributed significantly last season and a graduate transfer who has done nothing but produce during her college career.

The Tar Heels had the No. 3-ranked recruiting class in the 2021 recruiting cycle, which included four recruits ranked inside the top 20. Two of those recruits will specifically supplement the wing position and will be instant impact players based on the abilities they showcased in high school.

First-year guard/forward Teonni Key was ranked ninth in the ESPNW class of 2021 rankings and was named to the Jordan Brand Classic 2021 Girls National Team and the 2021 McDonald’s All-American Girls Team. According to ESPN analysts Jason Key and Shane Laflin, Key has good ball skills and a strong mid-range jumper and bangs the boards on the offensive and defensive end — a great combination for a winger.

Destiny Adams, another first-year guard/forward, was ranked 20th in the ESPNW class of 2021 rankings and was named the 2020-21 Gatorade New Jersey Girls Basketball Player of Year, averaging 30.1 points, 18.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.5 blocks as a senior, highlighting the improvement in her rebounding and defensive skills over the past year. She was also named to the Jordan Classic Brand Classic 2021 Girls National Team and the 2021 McDonald's All-American Girls Team.

Of the returning players, sophomore guard/forward Alyssa Ustby started 17 of 24 games and played an average of 30 minutes last season, which was the most on the team. Ustby was the fifth-leading scorer with an average of 9.9 points per game. She was also effective crashing the glass, as she averaged 5.7 rebounds a game, the second most on the team.

Also returning is sophomore Kennedy Todd-Williams, who plays a very similar style to Ustby.

Todd-Williams was a key role player coming off the bench for North Carolina last season. She came one assist shy of the program’s first ever triple-double, posting 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in just 21 minutes of play against South Carolina State. 

Banghart named this season's three team captains before the start of an Oct. 11 practice, one of which was graduate transfer guard Carlie Littlefield.

Littlefield played three seasons at Princeton, finishing her final season in the Ivy League’s top 10 in points, field goal percentage, steals, assists, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage and assist-turnover ratio.

No one on the team will be a more reliable on-the-ball and off-the-ball combo guard than Littlefield, who played under Banghart her first and second seasons at Princeton before Banghart left to coach at UNC.

As the team opens its season against North Carolina A&T on Tuesday, it gets its first opportunity to experiment with the wing rotation. With the diversity of skill sets, UNC has many possibilities with its lineup choices.

@CaparelliHunter 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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