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With top recruitment classes, UNC and Duke first-years have differing starts to season

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UNC freshman guard Seth Trimble (0) drives toward the basket in the game against Notre Dame in the Dean Smith Center on Jan. 7, 2023. UNC won 81-64.

With new faces taking over the helm of North Carolina and Duke basketball over the past two years, a new era of recruiting has begun for both programs.

Hubert Davis’ first class — which ranked in the top 15 in the nation — was signed shortly after he was named UNC’s new head coach back in 2021.

After Jon Scheyer was announced as Mike Krzyzewski's successor before the start of last season, the former Duke standout hit the recruiting trail hard. In Scheyer’s first cycle, the then-assistant coach signed the No. 1-ranked class in the country — highlighted by a quartet of five-star prospects.

Here’s a look at how the two school’s respective first-year players have performed this season.

Guards

The lone first-year guard for North Carolina is Seth Trimble, the younger brother of former Tar Heel J.P. Tokoto. Trimble’s defensive abilities have been impressive this season, as the physical guard has had spurts of lockdown coverage on some of the ACC’s top scorers. 

However, with Trimble’s top-notch defensive play have come with a dropoff on the offensive end. The former four-star prospect’s inability to consistently create for himself and a tendency to dribble into turnovers has prevented Trimble from carving out a concrete role.

For the Blue Devils, Tyrese Proctor, a product of the NBA Global Academy, is the one of the team's offensive standouts.

Despite shooting just 35 percent this season, the first-year Australia native has displayed an ability to heat up in a hurry — possessing a fluid jumper from the catch and off the dribble — and has also flashed the ability to use his wiry frame to convert creative drives.  

Wings

Despite Tyler Nickel's long-range reputation entering Chapel Hill, the Virginia high school star has struggled to translate his strengths to the next level. The Harrisonburg, VA native has converted just 27 percent of his three-point attempts this season, and half of Nickel’s 3-pointers came in a blowout win over The Citadel. Coupled with his struggles to provide serviceable on-ball defense, Nickel has yet to become a viable option off North Carolina’s bench.

For Duke, Dariq Whitehead headlined the Blue Devils’ incoming class as the No. 2-ranked prospect in the country. But lingering injuries have plagued the first-year in what has been a disappointing season for the team's prized recruit so far.  

Alongside Whitehead, Mark Mitchell serves as Duke’s Swiss army knife starter. While Mitchell is not a volume scorer, the forward delivers his nine points per game at an efficient rate — shooting at a near 50 percent clip from the field and over 40 percent from deep. 

Bigs

Jalen Washington made his long-awaited return to basketball at the beginning of conference play this season. The stretch-forward underwent multiple surgeries to repair an ACL injury he suffered in high school, and he didn’t see game action until last December.

In short time, Washington displayed his crafty play, utilizing his full arsenal of face up moves and turnaround jumpers en route to a career-high 13 points at Virginia. 

Duke’s frontcourt tandem features first-years Dereck Lively II and Kyle Filipowski, the nationwide No. 3 and No. 4 prospects out of high school. While Lively has struggled to live up to his lofty ranking and has served more as an above-average rim protector this year, Filipowski has burst onto the collegiate scene.

Filipowski — a Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 honoree — currently sits as the Blue Devils’ leading scorer and has recorded double-doubles in four of his past five games. Filipowski's modern big repertoire — seen in his ability to stretch the floor and handle the ball in transition — has the 7-footer well on his way to winning ACC Rookie of the Year.

@evanr0gers

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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