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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels in the Pros: Checking in with former Tar Heels following the NBA All-Star Break

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Then-first-year guard Cole Anthony (2) dribbles during the first-round of the ACC Tournament against Virginia Tech in the Greensboro Coliseum Complex on Tuesday, March 10, 2020. UNC beat Virginia Tech 78-56.

Following productive careers in Chapel Hill, several former North Carolina men's basketball players have made their mark in the professional ranks.

Close to a dozen former Tar Heels are currently on an NBA roster, many of whom are making solid contributions to their teams following the All-Star Break last month.

No players were selected directly out of UNC in the 2022 NBA Draft, but Utah Jazz rookie Walker Kessler – who played his first year in Chapel Hill – was drafted out of Auburn. The first-year player is averaging 8.2 points and an impressive 2.2 blocks per game.

The latest NBA Draft pick directly from UNC is Day’Ron Sharpe, who is in his second year with the Brooklyn Nets. The big man is the youngest Tar Heel in the NBA and is even younger than many players on UNC's current roster.

Fourth-year pros Nassir Little of the Portland Trail Blazers and Coby White of the Chicago Bulls have carved out solid rotational roles, averaging 6.6 and 8.9 points per game, respectively. 

Former NCAA champions Theo Pinson of the Dallas Mavericks and NBA veteran Danny Green, who recently signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, have also turned into valuable reserve players for their respective teams. Joining Pinson on the Mavericks is veteran wing Reggie Bullock, who is averaging about seven points per game in 60 appearances this season.

Rounding out the Tar Heels in the NBA are three standouts scoring in double figures:

Cameron Johnson

During a career year in which he was averaging over 13 points per game for the Phoenix Suns, Johnson was one of several players recently traded to the Brooklyn Nets for superstar Kevin Durant. Since being sent to Brooklyn, Johnson has scored in double figures in each of his first six games, including a 27-point performance at Atlanta on Feb. 26. 

Early in the season, Johnson missed 39 games with a knee injury. Despite missing significant time, the 3-point marksman has bounced back in his new home. Johnson is in the final year of his rookie contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

Harrison Barnes

In his 11th season, Barnes has been a beacon of leadership for a peaking Sacramento Kings squad. Barnes leads all former Tar Heels in the NBA in scoring with 14.2 points per game.

Since playing in back-to-back NBA Finals for the Golden State Warriors in 2015 and 2016, Barnes has yet to return to the playoffs. Now, he and the Kings, who haven’t made the playoffs in a league-record 16 seasons, are set to potentially break their postseason slump, as they currently sit in third place in the Western Conference. 

Cole Anthony

Anthony is perhaps UNC’s brightest young star in the league. The Orlando Magic guard has found a new role off the bench this season after starting in every appearance the season prior. Despite a reduction in minutes and his lowest scoring mark of his three-season career at 11.8 points per game, Anthony has seen a measurable improvement in his efficiency. 

His 43.5 percent mark from the floor is the best of his career, and the first time he has shot over 40 percent. He is also shooting 89 percent from the line, which is the 16th-best mark in the league.

@BenMcC33

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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