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Monday January 24th

Analysis: New transfers make instant impact for UNC men's basketball

Graduate transfer forward Brady Manek (45) defends the hoop in the game against Appalachain State in Dean E. Smith Center on Dec 21, 2021. UNC won 70-50.
Buy Photos Graduate transfer forward Brady Manek (45) defends the hoop in the game against Appalachain State in Dean E. Smith Center on Dec 21, 2021. UNC won 70-50.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Following the offseason departures of former big men Garrison Brooks, Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler, the North Carolina men’s basketball team has been forced to rebuild its frontcourt rotation on the fly, paving the way for three transfers to earn minutes this season.

While previous UNC teams have relied on traditional low post players to bully teams inside — and the current squad’s leading scorer, junior forward Armando Bacot, fits that description — each of the new transfers offer a unique skill set that has given new head coach Hubert Davis plenty of options to work with.

Here’s a look at how each of them have contributed thus far, and how they could help the Tar Heels navigate through ACC play: 

Brady Manek

After scoring over 1400 points in his four-year career at Oklahoma, Brady Manek left Norman for a different kind of opportunity — he wanted to compete for a national championship.

Despite starting in 111 of his 122 games at Oklahoma, Manek has most commonly been used as one of the Tar Heels’ bench weapons, which has been his role in 12 games. 

In this position, he has given the second unit a much-needed spark as a reliable offensive threat that can open up the paint for other players to attack. At 6-foot-9, Manek came to Chapel Hill with the reputation of being someone that could stretch the floor. He has solidified that distinction with his 36.4 percent clip from deep on over five attempts per game.

While shooting will always be his calling card, he has also flashed the ability to be a potent distributor. Although he is averaging only 1.5 assists per game — a career high — his interior passing to Bacot and overall understanding of the offensive flow has been one of the reasons that Bacot has been able to become an ACC Player of the Year candidate.

Dawson Garcia

Less than four months after Dawson Garcia torched the Tar Heels for 24 points and 11 rebounds in the Smith Center in late February, Davis knew which 6-foot-11 former high school All-American he wanted on his team.

After entering the transfer portal after his first season at Marquette, Garcia mulled his NBA Draft options, but pulled his name from professional consideration and settled into his new home at UNC in July. 

Although he is averaging only 10 points per game, he has scored 20 points or more three times, including a 26-point outing against then No. 6 Purdue in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.  

While he most typically plays alongside Bacot as the team’s starting power forward, his versatility has allowed Davis to mix and match with several different lineup combinations throughout each game. When Bacot heads to the bench, he and Manek supply the team with two viable shooters in the frontcourt, as he has knocked down 11 of his 24 triples before missing the last two games with a head injury.

Justin McKoy

Following his first two seasons at Virginia, Justin McKoy transferred to North Carolina this fall — less than 15 miles from where he was once a standout at Panther Creek High School in Cary. 

Although McKoy has yet to break out this season — averaging just 6.3 minutes per game — the former top-10 player in the state gives the Tar Heels depth at the forward position. At 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, he can be used interchangeably at either forward spot and has occasionally been one of the first players brought in off the bench.

His subpar field goal percentage suggests there is still room for his game to improve, but his solid shooting mechanics indicate that his numbers could experience an uptick over time.  

@hunternelson_1 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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