On May 1, UNC men’s basketball confirmed that sophomore guard Kerwin Walton would be entering the transfer portal. With Walton’s departure, the Tar Heels now have one scholarship left outstanding, and will look to fill that void with a transfer.
After much deliberation, The Daily Tar Heel summer sportswriters have compiled their picks for who the UNC men’s basketball team should tap to fill the open spot.
Matthew Mayer, Baylor
While four members of UNC’s “Iron Five” are set to return in the upcoming season, a gaping hole in the offense is left with the absence of now-graduated forward Brady Manek. UNC should look to recruit another sharpshooter to join its ranks, one option being Mayer.
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound wing would bring an outside shooting presence, as well as postseason experience with the Bears. A 2021 national champion, Mayer averaged just under 10 points and five rebounds in 33 games last season, and he shot at 32.4 percent from behind the arc.
It’s uncertain whether Mayer will return to college basketball, since he entered the NBA draft along with the transfer portal. If Mayer does decide to return for a fifth year, UNC could draw on Mayer's mullet to replace Manek's beard in Chapel Hill.
Shelby Swanson, summer sports editor
and Abigail Keller, staff writer
Pete Nance, Northwestern
Standing at 6-foot-10, the Northwestern forward doesn’t appear on many draft boards. And although he doesn’t slot into the Tar Heels’ starting lineup as seamlessly as Mayer might, he could fill a greater need for North Carolina — depth at center. Nance is a more natural forward and could act as a solid backup option for senior center Armando Bacot.
Nance also has the ability to create offense for himself and his teammates, as he averaged almost 15 points and three assists per game last season. During his senior campaign, Nance hit 42 three-point shots at a 45.2 percent clip. Whether it’s his elite three-point shooting or array of moves in the mid-range, Nance possesses a deep bag of offensive tools.
Evan Rogers, senior writer
Keion Brooks Jr., Kentucky
As a junior, Brooks averaged 10.8 points and 4.4 rebounds and started in all 33 games he appeared in.
Brooks isn’t much of a three-point shooter, hitting just seven last season, so he wouldn’t space the floor quite like Manek did. However, Brooks would be able to provide a presence in the paint that Manek didn’t quite have. Like Nance, Brooks is more of a face-up big who can shoot from outside the lane and can also get to the basket.
He also has blue-blood experience — the Indiana native led the Wildcats with 27 points in an 80-62 win over Kansas this past season.
So what's stopping him from wearing Carolina blue?
Noah Monroe, senior writer
Kenneth Lofton Jr., Louisiana Tech
The big man from Louisiana Tech did it all for his team last season, averaging 16.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Lofton also led the Bulldogs in blocks and was second on the team in steals, helping to earn him the title of LABC Louisiana Major College Player of the Year.
Lofton's 6-foot-7, 275-pound frame allows him to thrive on the low block and play a physical brand of interior offense. However, his touch around the rim is deceivingly soft, posing another challenge to opposing teams defending the paint.
Given spacing issues, Lofton probably wouldn’t play alongside Bacot. However, he could serve as a solid backup option at the big man position, should Bacot get into foul trouble or need rest.
Daniel Wei, senior writer
Emoni Bates, Memphis
After one season playing for head coach Penny Hardaway, Emoni Bates put his name in the transfer portal. The 6-foot-9 small forward finished his first college season with an average of 9.7 points per game, connecting on 38.6 percent of his shots.
The Michigan native was one of the most highly touted high school prospects in years. Many media outlets considered him the top player in the 2022 class before reclassifying to 2021.
Bates could make noise right away for UNC at the three and four positions. Bates' size and ability to get to the basket can draw a defense to quickly slide to him, freeing up shooters like junior guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis.
Riley Kennedy, staff writer