<![CDATA[The Daily Tar Heel: Mens basketball]]> Thu, 14 Nov 2019 13:52:52 -0500 Thu, 14 Nov 2019 13:52:52 -0500 SNworks CEO 2019 The Daily Tar Heel <![CDATA['It's who we have': Roy Williams, UNC facing unprecedented injury problems this season]]> In the first half of Friday's game against UNCW, Armando Bacot went down with an injury and didn't return.

Postgame, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said that the first-year center is being evaluated for a concussion. If he's forced to miss time, Bacot would make five Tar Heels out against Gardner-Webb on Friday.

Junior big man Sterling Manley and first-year guards Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis are all out with lower body injuries, with no timetable as to their respective returns, while senior guard Brandon Robinson suffered a sprained right ankle in this year's exhibition game against Winston-Salem State. All have yet to play a second for North Carolina in 2019-20.

When asked if he's ever had to face an injury bug this vicious, Williams kept it simple.

"No," he said.

Against the Seahawks, Williams used just seven players in meaningful game time, while four Tar Heels played 32 or more minutes. That lack of depth would test any coach, but it's likely even worse for Williams, who makes a point of turning to his bench early and often.

"I can play eight or nine, easily, and sometimes even 10, and give them enough minutes, enough playing time that they're satisfied with it, but you've got to have depth in this game," he said.

Without that depth, UNC has been forced to lean on the talents of a small few to carry the load offensively. First-year guard Cole Anthony had 34 points in the season opener against Notre Dame. He also had a game-high 20 against UNCW, while forwards Justin Pierce and Garrison Brooks both added 18.

Against the Irish, though, only Brooks, who had 10 points, and Anthony cracked double digits. Their teammates know that won't cut it.

"Cole had a monster night (against Notre Dame), and we know we can't rely on that for us to be successful," Pierce said after the UNCW game.

In both of UNC's first two games, Anthony jacked 24 shots and played an average of more than 36 minutes.

"He said, 'Coach, I'm ready to go 40,'" Williams said after Notre Dame. "I don't want him to do that very often, to say the least."

If this were the NBA, the Tar Heels would be in big trouble, but seeing as North Carolina never plays more than three times in a week, Williams should look to lean heavily on Anthony while his other players work to make it back to the court. This offseason, those in the program raved about the star first-year's superb conditioning; early in the season - likely Anthony's only one in Chapel Hill before going pro - his conditioning will be put to the test.

As for when UNC's injured players could see the court? Williams isn't sure, but he doesn't see the problem going away anytime soon.

"I think it is going to be something we have to deal with all season and it concerns us a great deal, but they don't let us go out and draft and there's no list that we can take anybody off the waiver list," Williams said. "It's who we have."


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<![CDATA[On a familiar court, Justin Pierce's 18 points help UNC basketball to win over UNCW]]> WILMINGTON, N.C.- For four members of the North Carolina men's basketball starting five, Friday night was something of a landmark: their first road start in a Tar Heel jersey.

Sophomore Leaky Black, first-years Armando Bacot and Cole Anthony and graduate transfer Christian Keeling all came into the away opener against UNC-Wilmington, to varying degrees, untested.

And when Bacot left the game for good after playing just two minutes and 41 seconds - he's now being evaluated for a concussion - it would've been even easier for the Tar Heels to let one get away from them in Trask Coliseum.

Luckily, though, they had someone who had been there before - literally. Graduate forward Justin Pierce, who spent three years at UNCW conference rival William and Mary, played at Trask three times before, dropping 23 points there as a sophomore in a January 2018 win.

And it was Pierce's 18 points on Friday that helped No. 9 UNC to a 78-62 victory, moving UNC to 2-0 and showing fans what the sharpshooting wing can do when he's in his element.

"I've had big games here in the past, and my teammates did a really good job early on of finding me," Pierce said. "When you see that first one go in, those first couple go in, the hoop gets a little bigger."

The Tar Heels came out colder than a November ocean breeze, but Pierce scored eight of their first 11 to keep them afloat early. His 13 points in the first half paced North Carolina, a big reason for the team's 40-29 advantage at the break.

To that point, Pierce was 5-8 from the field and 3-5 from three-point range. He says that since coming to Chapel Hill, he's gotten used to playing with Nike basketballs, the UNC standard. Against UNCW, though, Pierce was shooting Wilson's NCAA ball - also used in the NCAA tournament - which he says he's more comfortable with.

"I think he was probably the most ready to go," Anthony said. "He was talking about how that basketball is the basketball he played with at (William and Mary). So I'm like 'Oh, so you like that ball?' He's like, 'Yeah.'"

Anthony posted a game-high 20 points against the Seahawks, two nights after throwing up a 34-11-5 in the season opener against Notre Dame. But Pierce and his teammates know that's not easily replicated.

"Cole had a monster Wednesday night, and we know we can't rely on that for us to be successful," he said. "For other guys to knock down shots today, that was big for us."

In many ways, Pierce looked more comfortable on the road than he did in his first home game for the Tar Heels. Against the Irish, he had just five points on 1-6 from the field.

"I think I was just trying to find my spot. Trying not to screw up, basically," Pierce said.

On Friday, he was aggressive from the jump, taking four of the team's first 12 shots. He said he approached the game with "a different attitude," and it showed.

"I think that there's a reason we recruited him," head coach Roy Williams said. "We needed a player in that position. And I think he's getting better, getting more relaxed out there."

With Bacot's status up in the air, North Carolina will need Pierce more than ever. Add the first-year center's injury to a list that has claimed senior Brandon Robinson, junior big man Sterling Manley and a pair of first-year guards, Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis.

According to junior Garrison Brooks, Pierce is up for the challenge. He says that the guy that showed up in Trask Coliseum - not the guy from the Notre Dame game - is the real Pierce.

"It's huge, man," Brooks said. "Justin's a big time player, so we expect him to play like that."


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WCU freshman guard Jake Boggs (5) attempts to block as UNC graduate forward Justin Pierce (32) shoots the ball during their game at Trask Coliseum on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. The Tar Heels beat the Seahawks 78-62.

<![CDATA[UNC basketball downs UNCW in road battle behind Anthony, Pierce and Brooks]]> WILMINGTON, N.C. - The No. 9 North Carolina men's basketball team (2-0) won its first road game of the season against UNCW (1-1) on Friday, 78-62. First-year guard Cole Anthony led the way with 20 points, while graduate forward Justin Pierce and junior forward Garrison Brooks both posted 18 points.

What happened?

The Tar Heels missed six of their first seven shots, but the combination of Pierce and Anthony kept them in it early. At the 13:43 mark, they had combined for all of UNC's 14 points, while the Seahawks had 11 quick points with the help of a raucous home crowd.

Later, back-to-back dunks for Brooks put North Carolina up 20-19, then a 10-2 run gave the Tar Heels a nine-point advantage with less than eight minutes to go until halftime.

After picking up two quick fouls early on, first-year center Armando Bacot returned to the game only to be shaken up and sent to the locker room, from which he would not return. His status is unknown.

At the half, UNC led the Seahawks 40-29, though the teams combined to make just 24 of 74 shot attempts. Pierce paced North Carolina with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Anthony had 12 points on 4-14 shooting and Brooks had 10 to go with seven boards.

Midway through the second half, a 21-8 spurt from the Tar Heels pushed the lead all the way to 22 with under nine minutes to go. Seven different UNC players scored in that time, including Anthony, who nailed a tough step-back three to push the lead to 20 for the first time.

From there, the game was all but a formality, as the Seahawks never came within single digits again and the undermanned Tar Heels left Trask Coliseum with a win.

Who stood out?

After going 1-6 for five points in the season opener against Notre Dame, Pierce was much improved in his second game in a Tar Heel jersey, posting 18 points on 4-7 from three-point range.

Anthony and Brooks were the only other two players to reach double digits for North Carolina, though guard Leaky Black added eight points and Andrew Platek had six.

When was it decided?

The early second half run for UNC all but decided the game. With the UNC lead at nine with 14:47 to go, the Tar Heels scored 10 straight points on the backs of five different players. At the 11:52 mark of the second half, North Carolina held a 19-point lead that the Seahawks weren't able to erase.

Why does it matter?

The win is UNC's first on the road this season, coming without Bacot for much of the game. After he went down, head coach Roy Williams played just seven players when the result of the game was still in question, a testament to UNC's injury problems at the moment.

Still, the Tar Heels did enough to secure a win against an in-state opponent and Seahawks head coach C.B. McGrath, a former UNC assistant.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels won't play again until next Friday when they face off against Gardner-Webb at home in Chapel Hill at 9 p.m.


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<![CDATA[Cole Anthony ditches the glasses, dons his cape in season-opening Notre Dame win]]> Was it the glasses?

In the opening stages of No. 9 North Carolina basketball's season opener against Notre Dame, the highly touted Cole Anthony, son of NBA veteran Greg Anthony, the best point guard prospect in a generation, UNC's highest-rated recruit since Harrison Barnes, looked mortal.

The bespectacled first-year, doing his best Clark Kent impression, started out a pedestrian two of six from the field on Wednesday with a pair of bad misses from three-point range. The Irish were cold out of the gate, then clawed their way to a 31-30 advantage at the break.

As the first half winded down, Anthony took off the glasses. When the second began, he had to don his cape.

Anthony scored 23 after halftime to key a 32-13 run in the Tar Heels' eventual 76-65 win. His 34 points were a game-high, and a record for a UNC debut, eclipsing Rashad McCants' 28 points in 2002.

A better way to frame the game, though: after ditching the Rec Specs, Anthony made 10 of 18 shots, including six of nine three-point attempts.

He could see clearly now. The rain was gone.

"I think it was messing up my depth perception," Anthony said. "Because when I took those off, something clicked."

With about 10 minutes left, a pair of Anthony three-pointers, plus an assist for an Andrew Platek triple, were the key to the game for the Tar Heels, turning a two-point lead into a 61-50 advantage. In his first college game, Anthony played 37 minutes - including the entire second half - and, according to his head coach, "carried" North Carolina.

"The second half, it was Cole Anthony," Roy Williams said. "Sometimes Tyler Hansbrough carried us. Cole carried us tonight."

A rare sentiment from a coach known for an unsparing use of his bench. But Williams hardly had a choice against the Irish; North Carolina was outscored 12-2 in the precious little time Anthony spent resting.

"He said, 'Coach, I'm ready to go 40,'" Williams recalled. "I don't want him to do that very often, to say the least."

It was his first time running the UNC offense, but the first-year took the keys and went for a joyride. He looked as comfortable driving the lane as he did launching 30-footers, and the Cole Anthony show was as enjoyable for his teammates as anyone else.

"It's fun to watch, for sure," forward Garrison Brooks said. "I'm pretty sure y'all enjoyed the whole game seeing him. Sometimes I became a spectator."

The 6-foot-3 Anthony controlled other facets of the game, too, collecting 11 rebounds and adding five assists. But the points were what mattered, and after sinking five second-half three-pointers - all in a nine-minute stretch - Anthony admitted he was in a zone.

"I think it's surreal," he said. "I think that's a good word for it. It's like you're not thinking about anything else. It feels like that stadium was empty to me. I was in there just playing basketball."

North Carolina is the thinnest it's been in some time. Williams - who is, as it stands, missing the talents of Sterling Manley, Brandon Robinson, Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis - essentially played just seven Tar Heels on Wednesday.

Cole Anthony said the zone is a familiar place for him. Now that the glasses are off, he might have to get used to playing the role of Superman.

"It's so much fun playing with him," Platek said. "And we're gonna need him every game throughout the rest of the year."


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UNC guard Cole Anthony (2) makes a pass on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 at the Smith Center. UNC beat Notre Dame 76-65.

<![CDATA[Andrew Platek has a career night by doing the little things for UNC basketball]]> Cole Anthony called him "my guy." Garrison Brooks said "tough situations" last year made him deserve this all the more. Armando Bacot lauded him as a "do-it-all" player, while (correctly) guessing that few people outside UNC know his name. At least a few more in Chapel Hill know it now.

Andrew Platek had the best game of his career in No. 9 North Carolina's 76-65 win over Notre Dame, putting up eight points, four rebounds and two assists in a career-high 25 minutes.

Tame numbers, sure, in comparison to first-year phenom Anthony's 34-11-5 line and even Brooks' 10-point, nine-rebound outing. But, in talking to the reserve junior guard afterward, you got the feeling this one went beyond basketball.

"It's crazy," Platek said. "Only really my family and the people close to me know what I've been through these past two years and how hard I've worked to have this opportunity. It's been the hardest thing in my life, but I'm so grateful."

When senior guard Brandon Robinson sprained his ankle in an exhibition last week, Platek knew he'd take on a heavier load. But his first-half playing time was still a surprise - he played no more than 11 minutes in a game last season, yet here he was logging 12 in the first half of an ACC contest.

Within a minute of subbing in, he grabbed an offensive rebound, passed it out to Justin Pierce and worked a smooth pick-and-pop with the forward on the left sideline, tossing the ball over his shoulder to an open Pierce for a 3-pointer. He grabbed another offensive rebound and hit a three of his own before halftime.

"He's getting the time he deserves now because he's worked so hard," Brooks said. "People are going to see those shots going in all the time like I'm used to in practice. Proud of the way he plays."

The Tar Heels dominated the second half in every facet - and that was thanks, mostly, to Anthony, whose 34 points set an ACC and UNC record for the most in a first-year's debut.

But when an Anthony 3-pointer gave UNC a 55-50 lead and Notre Dame registered a quick miss at the other end, it was Platek - not Pierce, or Christian Keeling, or Anthony himself - who sank a key three of his own, which forced a Fighting Irish timeout and gave the Tar Heels a cushion they'd lacked.

"When opportunity knocks," Platek said, "I'm going to answer."

His best - from an aesthetic standpoint - was yet to come.

North Carolina was running like a well-oiled machine and leading 63-52 when Brooks rose up for a clean block of Notre Dame guard T.J. Gibbs. And when Platek corralled the loose ball, he didn't hesitate. Rather, he took off, led a 3-on-1 fast break and tossed up a soft lob to Bacot for a dagger of a dunk.

"This is going to be a really big year for him," Bacot said.

Head coach Roy Williams took a more measured approach, noting in his postgame news conference Platek's main defensive target, Notre Dame's Prentiss Hubb, went for 22 points while still labeling the second-half three as "really important."

In the players' lounge minutes later, Platek settled into a high-top chair wearing a Sonic the Hedgehog T-shirt and an uncontainable smile. He was quick to compliment Anthony's confidence, Brooks' defense on Notre Dame star John Mooney, Bacot's floor running on the aforementioned alley-oop.

But when the questions came about him and his performance, he was candid: this one really seemed to come at the right time.

"To be out for more than a few minutes a game, to have an impact, to feel like I did something to help my team win and not just sit on the sideline and cheer, even though that's important," he said. "It felt good to leave my mark on the game."


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UNC junior guard Andrew Platek (3) runs down court on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 at the Smith Center. UNC beat Notre Dame 76-65.

<![CDATA[UNC defeats Notre Dame 76-65 behind record-breaking game from Cole Anthony]]> Cole Anthony, to say the least, lived to the hype.

The first-year guard poured in 34 points - the most ever by a UNC first-year in his debut - in No. 9 North Carolina's season-opening 76-65 win over ACC foe Notre Dame on Wednesday night.

The Tar Heels, who also out-rebounded the Fighting Irish 51-31 and shot 28 of 60 from the field, moved to 16-1 in season openers under head coach Roy Williams.

What happened?

North Carolina scored on its first two trips downcourt; first, a Garrison Brooks jump hook, then a Cole Anthony layup high off the glass. Justin Pierce and Christian Keeling both sank the first three-point attempts of their North Carolina careers and Notre Dame missed 11 of its first 14 shots, helping UNC to a 13-6 advantage at the 11:45 mark.

The Irish found their groove, however, and a 12-2 run later in the half gave them a 28-23 advantage with 2:50 to go until halftime.

Seven UNC points, five from Anthony, slimmed the Notre Dame lead to 31-30 going into the break. The first-year guard paced the Tar Heels with 11 first-half points, tied with ND's Prentiss Hubb and T.J. Gibbs for what was then a game-high.

Anthony stayed hot in the second half - he added nine quick points and, again, helped seize momentum for UNC, which led 48-46 at the under-12 timeout.

Teammates like Andrew Platek stepped up, too, and by the 9:25 mark, the Tar Heels were shooting 11 of 15 to start the second half. And after Platek tossed a fast-break alley-oop to Armando Bacot to boost UNC's lead to 65-52, North Carolina's sloppy first half was a distant memory.

The Fighting Irish hung around, thanks mostly to the trio of Mooney, Gibbs and Hubb, but the Tar Heels held a comfortable lead - always somewhere in the nine- to 16-point range - as the second-half clock drained and, eventually, ran out on a UNC victory.

Who stood out?

Anthony's 34 points were the most for a UNC first-year debut, eclipsing Rashad McCants' 28 points against Penn State in 2002.

Brooks finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, while Bacot, his frontcourt running mate, added seven points and eight boards.

Hubb was a much-needed spark for Notre Dame all night; his 22 points and five 3-pointers were both team highs.

When was it decided?

Leading by just two with a little over eight minutes left to play, UNC went on a decisive run, going on a 9-0 run with two three pointers from Anthony and one from Platek to put the game firmly in hand.

Why does it matter?

After a poor shooting first half, UNC's secondary players - such as Bacot, Platek and Leaky Black - stepped up to supplement Anthony and Brooks.

North Carolina also logged its 15th consecutive win in a season-opener.

Who do they play next?

North Carolina will travel east and play UNC-Wilmington on Friday in its first road game on the season. The Seahawks are coached by C.B. McGrath, a former UNC assistant coach of 14 years.

@chapelfowler | @ryantwilcox

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UNC guard Cole Anthony (2) makes a pass on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 at the Smith Center. UNC beat Notre Dame 76-65.

<![CDATA[Before Notre Dame opener, Roy Williams addresses Robinson injury and inexperience]]> Heading into its season opener against Notre Dame Wednesday night, the North Carolina men's basketball team has a number of question marks, including an injury bug and a lack of experience in its starting lineup.

Head coach Roy Williams and junior big man Garrison Brooks addressed these concerns in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

"It's been the most difficult preseason for trying to get your team ready that I've ever had," Williams said.

And with the first game of the season being a battle against a conference rival, this inexperience could be a significant issue for the Tar Heels. Williams is unsure how the Tar Heels will fare against an ACC opponent in the opening game of the season - not exactly ideal for Williams and his young team.

"I think there's more of a sense of urgency than there would be if it was somebody else," Williams said. "And that's uncomfortable. I don't like it, but it's the schedule. Every year, we have to play what they put in front of us."

The inexperience of the team was clearly a cause of Williams' concern, especially compared to a veteran Irish team.

"I think (Notre Dame senior guard T.J. Gibbs) has 69 starts," Williams said. "And that's more than all of our guys put together."

The only returning Tar Heel with any significant experience in a starting position is Brooks, who has started 52 games in his career. The loss of senior guard Brandon Robinson, who suffered an ankle injury in an exhibition game against Winston-Salem State Friday, surely doesn't help.

"Our most experienced player, highest field goal percentage from three last year and all those things. He's also our third point guard," Williams said. "Losing him was more than just one player going down. It's getting really unsettled."

Williams says Robinson's injury is "really serious" and that he's expected to be out at least a couple weeks. This leaves the burden of almost all leadership responsibilities on the only other returning player who's played meaningful minutes in ACC games: Brooks.

"It falls on me," Brooks said. "If I don't have the right energy, talk right and try to get everyone involved, it won't work out very well for us."

Brooks said he hopes leading by example will be enough to help encourage UNC's talented young players to overcome their nerves for their first regular season game, especially one with so much importance behind it. First-years Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot had strong showings in the exhibition game on Friday, both finishing the game with double-digit points.

Williams doesn't doubt the talent of his young players, but he fears the team's lack of experience will pose problems against a veteran Notre Dame team.

"Talent always wins," Williams said. "But experienced talent really wins."


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Head Coach Roy Williams yells at the bench during the exhibition game against Winston-Salem State in the Smith Center on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. UNC beat WSSU 96-61.

<![CDATA['A perfect role for him': Kendall Marshall takes next step on UNC coaching staff]]> When the news of Kendall Marshall's retirement surfaced in late November 2017, even those who knew him well were a bit shocked.

The former North Carolina point guard was a little over five years removed from a legendary collegiate career that saw him break school and conference records. But after being selected No. 13 overall in the 2012 NBA draft and playing on four different NBA teams, the uncertainty of his future in professional basketball weighed on him.

A string of injuries - the most severe being a torn ACL he suffered in January 2015 - didn't help, either.

Though friends and former teammates knew of his struggles, they didn't expect him to hang it up. Former UNC teammate and current Cleveland Cavaliers forward John Henson certainly didn't.

"He never told me he was gonna step away, cause I would've told him, 'Hell no,'" Henson told The Daily Tar Heel. "But when it was done, we kinda talked a little bit, and he just said that it was time. I think it was a great decision for him. At the end of the day, you want to be able to walk away and not be forced to walk away."

Marshall handled the decision the same way he'd always gone about life: quietly and without much fanfare. The 28-year-old even declined an interview request for this story.

Dating back to Marshall's days as a Tar Heel, it's never been about him. Not then, not now and not when he made his way back to Chapel Hill in the fall of 2017.

Not last month, either, when he was named the director of recruiting on head coach Roy Williams' staff.

"He's one of the five smartest players I've ever coached in 32 years now as a head coach," Williams said at UNC's media day. "A guy that generally understands basketball as well as anybody that I've ever been around."

'Always pass first'

Tyler Zeller met Marshall in the summer of 2010 and was immediately blown away.

Zeller was a rising junior at the time and Marshall was an incoming first-year. During pickup games, Marshall's ability to "make the plays nobody else even saw" impressed him.

"He's the guy who makes all these plays look so simple," Zeller said.

A 6-foot-4 guard from Dumfries, Virginia, Marshall was a four-star recruit who played behind then-junior Larry Drew II for part of his first season.

But after a 20-point loss at Georgia Tech in mid-January, Williams inserted Marshall into the starting lineup. On Feb. 4 of the same year, Drew II unexpectedly transferred out of the program. There was more weight on Marshall's shoulders than he'd initially anticipated.

Still, he was prepared, and it showed.

"He was groomed for the moment," Henson said. "He was ready - that's as simply as I can put it. It wasn't really an adjustment period. It wasn't like we had to get him under our wing … And from that moment on, the program, especially our team, we went to a different level of playing."

With Marshall running the offense, the Tar Heels won 12 of their final 13 regular season games, claimed the ACC regular-season title and advanced to the Elite Eight before falling to Kentucky.

Marshall averaged a conference-high 6.2 assists on the year, and was named a first-team Freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC.

That was only the beginning, though.

As a sophomore in 2011-12, Marshall had double-digit assists in 17 of UNC's 36 games. Though he was never a high-volume scorer, his signature "pitch ahead" passes made his game exciting to watch and the Tar Heel offense a thing of beauty.

"I think in a lot of ways, you don't see a lot of point guards anymore who want to pass the ball first," Zeller said. "Usually, it's score first, pass second. And Kendall would always pass first, second and third."

With averages of 8.1 points and 9.8 assists, Marshall won the Bob Cousy Award, given to college basketball's best point guard. Marshall's 351 assists that season broke the UNC and ACC records.

But a dream season for Marshall went sour in UNC's NCAA second round matchup against Creighton. After being fouled midway through the second half on a layup attempt, Marshall hit the deck hard, landing on his right wrist.

He played seven more minutes in the game, dribbling with one hand in a blowout win. But the long-term prognosis wasn't good; Marshall's wrist was broken.

During post-game interviews, in a moment that could have been only about him, he never wallowed in self-pity. Instead, Marshall focused on how the injury would impact the team.

That was the final game he'd play in a Tar Heel uniform. No. 1 seed UNC won its next game but fell to Kansas in the Elite Eight.

After the season, Marshall - along with teammates Henson, Zeller and Harrison Barnes - declared for the NBA draft.

'Willing to help somebody else'

Marshall and Williams remained close throughout Marshall's up-and-down professional journey. Williams expected Marshall to have a lengthy NBA career if healthy, but Marshall wasn't so fortunate.

"Most of his injuries were fairly severe and that curtailed, needless to say, his career," Williams told the DTH. "Because I thought he could have played 10 or 12 years in the NBA if his body would have allowed it."

The head coach knew of his former player's desire to remain in basketball, no matter the capacity. So when Williams got a call from Marshall in 2017 informing him of his decision to retire, he had a plan in mind.

Williams would find a role for him on the coaching staff. But the first step was for Marshall to finish his degree, since Division I coaches are required to have at least a bachelor's.

Initially, Marshall joined the team as a student-coach. In December 2018, he earned his UNC degree.

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Knowing how valuable Marshall could be to his team, Williams was thrilled.

"Even when he was playing, he was willing to help somebody else, his teammates, if they had any questions or anything," Williams said. "Everybody had a tremendous feeling of his appreciation and his understanding of the game."

On Oct. 2, UNC officially named Marshall the program's director of recruiting. But the title, Williams said, is a bit misleading.

Marshall's responsibilities range from finding tape on prospects to bolstering the team's social media presence to being a sounding board for his old head coach. Williams will often ask Marshall how he handled certain situations as a player, both on and off the court.

"He'd always kinda said when he got done, he wanted to get into coaching in some respects," Zeller said. "I think what he's doing now is a perfect role for him."

Per NCAA rules, only four coaches can be on the court during practices. Marshall isn't one of those four for the Tar Heels yet.

For now, though, he'll look to help North Carolina by doing what he's always done: leading and mentoring, all without caring about the credit or spotlight.

"He's gonna continue to work his way up the ranks," Zeller said. "And whether it's assistant or head coach, I think he'll help the program tremendously."


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<![CDATA['No shortcuts to become a great': Cole Anthony putting in the work before his UNC debut]]> After North Carolina basketball's exhibition game against Winston-Salem State on Friday, you could find Cole Anthony standing just outside of the 3-point line.

The first-year point guard stayed in the vacant Dean E. Smith Center after the game, taking shot after shot from long range. His teammates were nowhere to be found, but that's not unusual for Anthony.

"Since day one, he's been a leader, just pushing everybody," first-year Armando Bacot said. "He's always in the gym, getting in extra work, doing all of the extra stuff."

Although he's only been in Chapel Hill for a short period of time, Anthony is used to putting in the extra work.

"There's no shortcuts to become a great, so I put my trust into the gym," Anthony said during the team's media day in October. "... I'm here every day after practice, if not before practice, just getting up shots."

Before arriving at UNC, Anthony averaged 18 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists at Oak Hill Academy, was the MVP of both the McDonald's All-America game and the Jordan Brand Classic and was named Virginia's Gatorade Player of the Year.

He competed as a member of the U18 USA National Team, scoring 18 points in the team's gold medal victory. Anthony also earned all-tournament honors at the 2018 FIBA U18 Americas Championships, where he played with Bacot and former UNC point guard Coby White.

Needless to say, the five-star recruit has earned almost every accolade in the book, and was widely regarded as one of the best prospects in the class of 2019. And since White declared for the NBA draft last summer, Anthony will now step into a starting spot at what has historically been one of UNC's strongest positions.

The greatness of those that came before Anthony only motivates him more.

"Coach Williams and the staff here, they've showed me some of the dudes playing before, and I've just tried to take that and try to envision myself in that same role," Anthony said. "It means a lot. Hope I don't mess it up."

When one compares Anthony to White, the guy who came directly before him, there's a big difference between the two in terms of style of play.

Junior wing Andrew Platek described Anthony's game as "more well-rounded," and that he sees the game at a different level than most point guards Platek has previously played with.

"You don't even know that you're going to get the ball," Platek said. "You get the ball and you're like 'Oh, I'm open.' So it's so fun playing with him, because he draws so much attention that frees up everybody else on the court. I think that's important for me, as well as the other shooters on this team.

"We're going to get a ton of open shots this year, just based on the fact that we have him out on court making decisions."

While Anthony may be a better setup man, and "super crafty," Platek said that the first year's speed might also be comparable to White's.

"Coby was great end-to-end, but Cole has a first step that's just lightning quick," Platek said. "And if he's on the top, you know that there's no defender in America that is stopping him from getting into the lane."

The season hasn't started, but it seems like Anthony has lived up to his teammates' expectations so far. He's done the work to earn those expectations, too. But while Anthony will continue to draw more attention, he's still focused on one mission: compete for a national championship.

"Forget my individual goals," he said. "I'm here to win, that's my one goal.

"Make it to a Final Four and see what we can do from there."


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Analysis: Cole Anthony leads group of ball handlers for UNC basketball]]> Roy Williams said he likes point guards that can do something great. He saw that in Ty Lawson, Marcus Paige, Kendall Marshall and Coby White, all of whom excelled at one particular skill or another.

Now, he sees that in first-year Cole Anthony.

Anthony is joining a North Carolina team that expects him to be a transcendent talent. He's one of the rare true first-year players that is essentially guaranteed a staring role on a Williams team. Why is that?

He can do something great.

Williams said he liked White because he was a great scorer, but he likes Anthony for a different reason.

"Cole can score," Williams said at UNC's media day. "But Cole is more of a quarterback back there, just trying to get other people the ball."

Anthony is UNC's second-highest rated recruit of all time and is expected to be the star of the team. But which ball handlers will UNC look to when he needs rest, or if he gets injured?

The top candidate is sophomore guard/forward/Swiss Army knife Leaky Black. He can play multiple positions for the Tar Heels, and he showed flashes of court vision and defensive prowess in his appearances last season before going down with an ankle injury, missing 13 games.

Black could be the one Williams turns to as the primary ball handler when Anthony isn't on the court.

"For us to be a really good basketball team, Leaky's gotta stay healthy and play," Williams said after UNC's exhibition against Winston-Salem State.

Black will be an important piece of UNC's backcourt puzzle. He's a versatile player who can run the offense, defend multiple positions and knock down the occasional long jumper. After him, though, it's pretty slim pickings from a ball handler standpoint.

Despite being unproven, redshirt junior guard K.J. Smith was just put on scholarship and could see real time early in the season as UNC waits for first-years Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis to return from injury. Williams could also go with veteran guard Brandon Robinson or graduate Christian Keeling, but both are unknowns at the point guard position.

Robinson is out for the foreseeable future with an ankle sprain. Keeling, though, is unknown to the North Carolina fanbase but could be an important asset for the Tar Heels.

"Once you're playing, it's still basketball no matter what level you're at," Keeling said. "So you still gotta play basketball, and that's what I'm here to do, is play basketball."

Lastly, there's junior Andrew Platek, a backup wing who could get an opportunity at the point if all else fails.

"I'm going to (play) as much as I deserve to, and that's what coach told me. That's what he tells everybody," Platek said. "You've gotta have value for the team and I add that in shooting and defending and decision-making."

Most of the guards on UNC's bench don't have experience as a primary ball handler. That means UNC might have to rely heavily on Anthony, its five-star point guard, for what will likely be his only season in Chapel Hill.

He played 28 minutes in the team's exhibition game, the most of any player for the Tar Heels. Expect him to continue seeing a ton of time throughout the regular season, which begins Wednesday against Notre Dame.

It all comes back to Cole Anthony. The most important question will be whether he can live up to the hype and do something great, helping the Tar Heels repeat as regular season ACC co-champions.

After all, that's why Williams brought him to UNC.


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA['Thrown into the fire': Garrison Brooks is the reluctant leader of UNC basketball]]> "I knew I wasn't very prepared," Garrison Brooks said, sprawled in a folding chair in the North Carolina men's basketball players' lounge. "It showed."

He's talking about a game played nearly two years ago, on Nov. 26, 2017, against Michigan State in the final of the PK80 tournament. The Spartans dominated UNC in a 63-45 laugher, limiting the Tar Heels, then with Joel Berry II, Theo Pinson and Luke Maye in tow, to 24.6 percent from the floor.

A first-year Brooks played 20 minutes and missed five of six field goal attempts. He says it was the lowest point of his college career.

Fast forward to today: the junior big man is on the verge of leading North Carolina this season as the team's only returning starter. Brooks, the Tar Heels' defensive anchor from a year ago, is also UNC's leading returning scorer with 7.9 points per game.

He'll look to incorporate six new faces, including grad transfers Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce, as well as five-star first-years Armando Bacot and Cole Anthony, into the fray - and, in the words of teammate Shea Rush, "be a dominant force all 40 minutes."

"When he's locked in," Rush told The Daily Tar Heel, "he's one of the best in the country."

How did he - and we - get here? How did a guy from the basketball hotbed of LaFayette, Alabama, the No. 131 player in his class, end up playing for Roy Williams, going from a town of 3,003 people to Chapel Hill?

And after a trying rookie season, how did Brooks become one of the Tar Heels' most crucial players in 2018-19, and their unquestioned leader in 2019-20?

"I was kinda thrown into the fire," Brooks said, shifting in his chair. He pauses.

"But it worked out for the best."

Brooks attended Auburn High School and eventually moved to Auburn to avoid a 30-minute commute, but his heart remains in LaFayette.

"We only have one restaurant - kind of a restaurant - that shuts down at like 6 o'clock," Brooks said. "It's only a couple gas stations. It's very small. Everyone knows each other. I think it's one of the greatest cities in America."

Brooks' uncle, Morris Finley, also hails from LaFayette. The former UAB guard, remembered for draining a game-winner against No. 1 seeded Kentucky in the second round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament, has been training and mentoring Brooks for his entire life.

He saw firsthand the type of transition his nephew had to undergo.

"You go from being the man in high school to being on a team full of guys who were the man in high school," Finley said. "Once you get to college, there's a learning curve for everyone."

Brooks was originally committed to play for Ben Howland at Mississippi State. But after Tony Bradley bolted for the NBA draft in 2017, Brooks was granted a release from the Bulldogs and joined UNC.

Though he didn't regret his decision, Brooks said the toughest thing about the adjustment was having to accept a different role. No longer his team's go-to option, Brooks took the seventh-most shots for UNC in his first season.

And then there was the Michigan State game.

"We were physically dominated everywhere across the court," he said. "It was a lot at the time, and I knew I wasn't ready for it."

After starting the first 16 games, Brooks was moved to the bench to make way for a small-ball starting five. In a season-ending walloping at the hands of Texas A&M, the first-year had three points and shot 1-6 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The early exit gave Brooks and company plenty to think about in the offseason. A No. 2 seed, Berry and Pinson's last ride, a chance to go back-to-back: all spoiled.

When Brooks did return, though, a changed mindset - with the help of both teammates and his favorite book - would lead to the most successful season of his basketball career.

"He didn't say it like, 'This is the Bible,'" Brooks said, "but he was like, 'This book will help you through a lot of stuff.'"

That's how Brooks' cousin introduced him to "The 48 Laws of Power," Robert Greene's best-selling self-help book, before his second season at North Carolina. Published in 1998, it includes anecdotes of influential people throughout history from Stalin to Shakespeare, tied to tenets such as "win through your actions, never through argument" and "master the art of timing."

Brooks read and immediately resonated with the book, so much so that his Instagram bio references Law 25: "Re-Create Yourself."

"Do not accept the roles that society foists on you," Greene writes. "Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you."

What about that passage resonated with Brooks?

"The biggest thing for me was just being myself," he said. "Not being who anyone else wanted to be, and just flourishing into my own person."

And as a sophomore, by the time conference season rolled around, Brooks felt he had finally bloomed.

He won North Carolina's defensive player of the game award a team-high 12 times in 2018-19, helping the team to a 29-7 record and a share of the ACC regular season title. Though UNC again fell early in the postseason in a Sweet Sixteen loss to Auburn - Brooks said he had to "go home and hear that nonsense" this summer - he staked his claim as one of the Tar Heels' most important cogs.

But the teammates Brooks credited for making him feel comfortable last season - Kenny Williams, Coby White and Maye in particular - aren't around anymore. Now, it's Brooks and senior guard Brandon Robinson spearheading a team that lost its five top scorers from last season.

And though Brooks was hesitant to accept his role at first, Robinson, for his part, has already seen growth.

"I've seen him become more of a leader," he said. "A guy who leads by example, that's not afraid to speak up when he needs to."

Brooks said that the next phase of his career - from contributor to leader - began almost immediately after the departing Tar Heels left campus.

Just like the last transition, it didn't come without its fair share of bumps.

"I wasn't the most excited about it," Brooks said. "Because I didn't want to have to yell at anyone, get everyone ready, be the main focal point."

Instead of telling them, Brooks would rather show his teammates what to do. Before the start of practice, you can find him shooting around and cracking jokes; once his work day begins, though, you get the sense that whatever drill he's partaking in - leg stretches, jump hooks, free throws - gets his full attention.

"He's definitely always in the right place doing the right things," Keeling said.

Robinson said that Brooks will "make a point" to be the best defensive player on the team. But for a team that lost more than 80 percent of its points from last season, he'll need to be even more than that.

"He'll have to kinda shoulder the load offensively, but I think he's more than capable," Finley, his uncle, said. "It's a matter of confidence, for sure."

That's not to say North Carolina won't have other options. Pierce and Keeling both averaged more than 14 points per game at mid-majors last season, while Anthony and Bacot are two of the most college-ready UNC recruits in a while.

Thus comes the biggest challenge of all: making the new guys feel like part of the team. Brooks says it's something he had to learn.

"I'm still struggling a little bit, figuring out how to talk to everyone," Brooks said. "I think that's one of the biggest things, figuring out how to get a message across to everyone in a way they understand."

Brooks says he models his leadership style after Maye, another no-frills Tar Heel. But while Finley doesn't expect Brooks to be "barking" at everyone - "that's not who he is" - he does expect him to be more vocal this season.

"I think he'll have to," he said. "Especially on the court explaining to guys that weren't there last year or didn't play as much last year."

Expectations are as high as ever for North Carolina, new faces be damned. The No. 9 Tar Heels were picked to finish second in the ACC, while Brooks himself was a preseason second team All-ACC selection.

The training wheels are off. He'll be expected to contribute heavily on both ends, and more than anyone else will be responsible for upholding the lofty expectations that are ever-present for North Carolina basketball.

The reason others say Garrison Brooks is ready for this moment? Everything that came before it.

"The more experience you have, the more equipped you are to handle it when it becomes your turn to be the leader," Finley said.

"That experience - there's no substitute for that."


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[What can Robinson and Rush, holdovers from 2017 title team, teach this year's roster?]]> As Shea Rush took in his final media day at the Smith Center, he couldn't help but shake his head and smile.

Had it really been three years since he and Brandon Robinson moved into their Ram Village apartments right across the street? Two and a half since they celebrated UNC's 2017 national championship win over Gonzaga as first-years? They were the old guys now - and he was still wrapping his head around it.

"Unbelievable that we're already seniors and getting treated like seniors," Rush told The Daily Tar Heel. "Coach is like, 'You're the vets,' and I'm like, 'I guess I'm one of those vets.' It's pretty wild."

The No. 9 Tar Heels aren't short on upperclassmen. They have six juniors, including starter Garrison Brooks, and intriguing grad transfers in Justin Pierce and Christian Keeling. Robbie O'Han, a former three-year JV player, is also a senior.

But, by virtue of Tony Bradley declaring for the NBA Draft and Seventh Woods transferring this spring, Robinson and Rush stand alone on this 18-man roster. As North Carolina's only two four-year players, they're the final connection between this team and the 2017 championship roster of three seasons ago - the last of the Mohicans, if you will. And that hasn't been lost on them.

The seniors said they've been trying to impress upon their younger teammates what it takes to get to that contender level. To win it all. To be featured on the front page of a DTH national championship paper - which, ironically, both Robinson and Rush did, in a joyful embrace with Kennedy Meeks and Luke Maye.

So as North Carolina opens its season Wednesday night against Notre Dame, the seniors have been emphasizing the little things.

Robinson, who since media day has sprained his ankle in an exhibition and is out indefinitely, immediately pointed out how UNC's 2016-17 team practiced. The core group that season - Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson, Meeks, Isaiah Hicks - had a singular focus: getting back to the national stage and seizing what was almost theirs a year before. It trickled down to the rest of the roster.

"Every practice was a good practice," Robinson told the DTH. "There was no day we came in with a lot of energy and the next day with low energy. It was constantly good practices, over and over again."

Rush has two major takeaways from his first season. One is maximizing every day. The other, he said, is an extension of head coach Roy Williams' mantra to always give a little more: in practice, in UNC's infamous preseason conditioning and running tests, in games regardless of result or situation.

"He exhausts us on the court," Rush said. "You're thinking, 'I can't keep running' or 'I can't keep playing' … what he's trying to get you to understand is you can do a little more. So helping these guys understand you might be exhausted, you might be tired, but you've just got to keep pushing."

Jackson Simmons was a first-year on UNC's 2011-12 team. On that roster, Tyler Zeller and Justin Watts, who were on UNC's 2009 championship team as first-years, played the role of Robinson and Rush as the final connection between the past and the present.

Simmons, now an assistant video coordinator for the Charlotte Hornets, told the DTH such veterans can play a huge role in building resiliency. Specific to Robinson and Rush: UNC's 2017 NCAA championship team lost seven games. None of North Carolina's previous five NCAA title teams lost more than four.

Robinson and Rush hit on that, too. Growing pains, they said, are part of a team's journey. If the Tar Heels want to get to Atlanta for this year's Final Four, they must take those in stride - while, of course, maximizing every day and practice.

Because, as Rush will tell you, time really does fly.


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

Graduate guard Christian Keeling (55) fights over the ball against senior guard Brandon Robinson (4) and senior forward Shea Rush (11) exhibition game at Late Night With Roy on Sept. 27, 2019.

<![CDATA[Analysis: UNC's big men bring a mix of youth and experience between Brooks and Bacot]]> If there's one thing North Carolina head coach Roy Williams loves more than playing fast, it's playing two traditional big men at the same time. And now, for the first time since the 2017 national championship run, UNC can do just that.

Plenty of possessions for UNC will start by looking inside first - they'll have to, now that the team is missing the elite shooting it had with Cameron Johnson, Luke Maye and Coby White.

The inside attack will begin with Garrison Brooks, a leader on the team and the Tar Heel's best returning player. With the addition of first-year Armando Bacot, Brooks, a junior power forward, can slide back to his natural position after playing center for most of the season last year.

Brooks is far and away the team's best defender, leading the team in defensive player of the game awards with 12 last season. Williams made it clear during the offseason that the team will rely on Brooks to set the tone on that end.

Offensively, the LaFayette, Alabama native has grown into almost everything Williams looks for in a big man. He rebounds, runs the floor, sets hard screens and rolls to the rim for easy dunks. He's also an underrated passer. He tallied at least three assists in six different games last season.

Expect him to have the ball in his hands more this season - he'll take some of the post-up possessions Maye had, and he's worked on his mid-range shot over the offseason to try and space the floor.

His front-court partner, Bacot, brings size and shot blocking that UNC has been missing since Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks graduated.

He'll also be a low-post threat from the start, with soft touch around the rim and solid footwork that should get the Tar Heels some easy buckets inside. From what he showed in high school, Bacot should be able to facilitate out of the high post and throw the ball down to Brooks, or reverse positions and receive the pass.

Defensively, Bacot will block shots, but he'll also probably share the same struggles that all first-year bigs do, taking time to adjust to the speed of the college game and understanding complex defensive schemes. His conditioning was a question mark in high school, and how much he plays will depend on how quickly he can adjust.

Outside of the probable starters, Williams hasn't given any inclination as to what the rotation will look like, but UNC has a couple big men that will fill up minutes coming off the bench.

Sterling Manley, the primary backup last year when he was healthy, won't be ready for the start of the season after having surgery on his knee over the summer.

Walker Miller, a junior forward, was shouted out several times during ACC Operation Basketball as a player Williams was impressed with. Brandon Huffman played sparingly last season, but might be pressed into duty more regularly with Manley out. Both Miller and Huffman played over 10 minutes in the exhibition against Winston-Salem State.

Graduate transfer Justin Pierce could also see some minutes at the four when the Tar Heels decide to go small, as he did during the exhibition game against WSSU.

Overall though, most of the playing time will be split between the two starters at center when they don't share the floor. If this UNC team wants to score, it will do so by looking to Brooks and Bacot to run the floor, get deep position early and take pressure off a team lacking shooting.


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Analysis: Without Brandon Robinson, UNC's new wings could have to step up early]]> North Carolina basketball was already going to have to lean on a number of new faces on the wing this season.

Then, in an exhibition against Winston-Salem State on Friday, senior guard Brandon Robinson went down.

Robinson sprained his right ankle in the first half against the Rams while attempting to block a shot, and was on crutches after the game. Though UNC announced that x-rays came back negative for a fracture, no timetable was given for his return.

His absence will present even more opportunities for a couple of newcomers - graduate transfers Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce - plus Andrew Platek.

The junior guard from Guilderland, New York averaged 1.1 points per game in 3.6 minutes for UNC last season, but figures to be a more prominent part of the Tar Heels' backcourt rotation this year.

With the departures of Coby White, Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson, Platek provides much-needed three-point shooting and can space the floor for first-year point guard Cole Anthony and others. He's a career 35.7 percent shooter from long range on 42 attempts, and should also look to be more aggressive attacking the basket and creating plays for teammates.

Then there's Keeling and Pierce, two more sharpshooters who could very well be the keys to a successful season for UNC.

Keeling, a 6-foot-3 guard from Augusta, Georgia, joins the Tar Heels after three seasons at Charleston Southern, where he averaged 18.7 points as a junior on 38 percent from three-point range. He's a proven scorer at the mid-major level who can fill it up in all three phrases of the game; the only question is if he can do the same against ACC-level talent.

He also averaged 6.9 rebounds per game last year, impressive for a player his size - though head coach Roy Williams said those rebounds won't come as easily for Keeling against superior athletes. Keeling, for his part, says he learned at CSU what it takes to compete on the glass.

"Coaches always tell me, 'You don't have to have skill to rebound and defend,'" he said. "It's just effort. I knew I had to help my team out, so I tried to do it in all ways possible."

Pierce is a 6-foot-7 forward from Glen Ellyn, Illinois who played three years at William & Mary before transferring. Last season he averaged 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds and shot 32.4 percent on triples; the year before that he posted 14.7 points per game on a blistering 41.6 percent from deep.

The reason for the shooting dip, according to Pierce, was a wrist injury that hampered his offseason routine.

"Ask any good shooter, to take three months off without shooting, it's really hard," Pierce said after the team's Late Night with Roy event. "I get a lot of questions about that - why my percentages were down last year. But you can ask anyone on the team, I can shoot the ball."

Pierce will likely see time as both a wing and as a small-ball four for the Tar Heels, and could be a major threat in the pick-and-pop with the likes of Anthony (though that's not the type of game Williams typically likes to play). His multifaceted game and ability to stretch the floor might remind fans of Luke Maye, though Pierce is 30 pounds lighter and seems to have a quicker first step.

With Robinson likely out for the season opener vs. Notre Dame, the trio of Platek, Keeling and Pierce will look to keep defenders honest and stretch the floor when UNC runs offense through Anthony and a stable of big men. Assuming he's able to come back fully healthy, the Robinson injury could end up being a blessing in disguise - a chance for Williams to assess his other options at the wing spots and see who's best equipped to help North Carolina compete for a title.


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[With Keeling and Pierce, UNC basketball again dips into the grad transfer market]]> Cameron Johnson, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce.

After only one instance of dabbling in the graduate transfer market during his first 14 years as the Tar Heels' head coach, Roy Williams has since landed three players to add another element to the North Carolina men's basketball program's recruiting.

The lone UNC grad transfer prior to the recent surge was Justin Knox, who came over from Alabama. Now, after Johnson's departure, UNC will lean on two more transfers, Keeling and Pierce, in 2019-20.

One reason: With the launch of the NCAA transfer portal in October of 2018, it's become easier than ever for athletes to announce their decisions to switch between schools.

Now, all an athlete has to do is go to their school's compliance office and request to be entered into the portal. Schools don't really have the option to decline a request, but can delay it for up to two days to make preparations. Once an athlete hits the portal, they're fair game for other universities to talk to.

North Carolina guard Seventh Woods was one such player to make use of the portal, announcing his decision to leave UNC in April. Before that, Larry Drew II was the last player to transfer from UNC when he did so in 2011. Williams didn't have a single player from the 2010-17 recruiting classes leave the program for greener pastures.

Johnson, conversely, made the switch from Pittsburgh to UNC in 2017 after averaging 11.9 points per game in his last season with the Panthers. In his two years with the Tar Heels, the forward started in 56 games, scoring 15 points per matchup and shooting 47.5 percent from the field.

Looking ahead to the 2019-20 season, Keeling and Pierce will be the latest case studies in North Carolina's experimentation with the grad transfer market. CBS Sports had Pierce ranked as this season's No. 6 graduate transfer in the country in August, with Keeling coming in at No. 11.

Other than football, men's basketball had the most Division I graduate transfers from 2013-18. The actual volume of those transfers has more than tripled in recent years, rising from 38 players in 2013 to 121 in 2018. Division I college football, a sport with rosters more than five times the size of basketball, had only 45 more graduate transfers in 2018.

With the growing popularity of the transfer market comes many questions for North Carolina, but two things have proven to be certain. One is that the Tar Heels have yielded mixed results from the process so far, for both the team and the player involved.

In his final season with the Crimson Tide, Knox averaged 6.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, but was forced to adjust to a more limited role in his only season with North Carolina. After his sole season in Chapel Hill, he bounced around professional leagues in Europe.

Johnson was the polar opposite. The sharpshooter dramatically improved his draft stock during his time at UNC and was selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

The other certainty is that fans shouldn't be expecting this trend to become one of Williams' primary options moving forward. At ACC media day, he made it clear that the turn to the transfer market was out of necessity.

"We will always address it as a need, but not initially, because I don't want that," Williams said. "... I do it out of need. I'd much rather have a freshman kid because it's more fun."


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

Winston Salem State guard Dontae Caldwell (5) attempts to block graduate guard Christian Keeling (55) during the exhibition game against Winston Salem State in the Smith Center on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. UNC beat WSSU 96-61.

<![CDATA[Puff Johnson, younger brother of Cameron Johnson, announces commitment to UNC]]> Four-star recruit Donovan "Puff" Johnson announced his commitment to play basketball at the University of North Carolina on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.

A Hillcrest Prep product and younger brother of former Tar Heel Cameron Johnson, the 6'7, 185 lbs small forward averaged 22.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks in his junior year at Moon High School according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

An outside shooter like his older brother, Johnson shot 46 percent from behind the arc, and made 61 3-pointers last year.

Johnson is listed as the No. 48 recruit in the country, the No. 13 small forward and the No. 4 recruit coming out of Arizona by 247Sports.

The small forward transferred to Phoenix Hillcrest Prep for his senior year of high school after he was denied eligibility at Moon by the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League because he repeated eighth grade at a small private school.

The rules of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which the WPIAL follows, states that a student isn't allowed to play more than six seasons in a sport after sixth grade.

Johnson joins the loaded recruiting class of 2020 for North Carolina that already has commitments from five-star centers Walker Kessler and Day'Ron Sharpe, five-star point guard Caleb Love and four-star combo guard R.J. Davis.

The Tar Heels now have the second best class of 2020 according to 247Sports.


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Veterans make their presence known in UNC's exhibition vs. Winston-Salem State]]> The hype for the Tar Heel first-years is palpable heading into the season for the No. 9 North Carolina men's basketball team.

But it was the team's veterans that stood out in the team's only exhibition game of the season against Winston-Salem State.

The main attractions were the Tar Heels' new faces, particularly first-years Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot. Early in the game, though, senior guard Brandon Robinson and junior forward Garrison Brooks made their presences known.

Robinson was aggressive, scoring eight quick points and having his way with the Winston-Salem State defense. Brooks had eight of his own in the first half and finished the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Midway through the first half, though, Robinson limped off the court with an ankle injury and wouldn't return to the game. His status moving forward is uncertain.

"We don't know anything about B-Rob," head coach Roy Williams said. "They're gonna have some X-rays made tomorrow morning, and we'll know more after we see that."

An extended absence could be particularly concerning for a UNC team that doesn't have a lot of depth at the guard positions. The Tar Heels will look to some younger players to carry the load, like sophomore Leaky Black. As the team's Swiss army knife, Black says he'll play wherever he has to to help the team.

"Tonight, as soon as he went down, I knew I was gonna have to play more minutes," Black said. "And I don't mind doing that. I'll play wing, point guard, whatever the case may be."

Another veteran who picked up the load after Robinson's injury was graduate guard Christian Keeling. He scored 14 points in the game, all in the second half.Keeling was a bit of an unknown, transferring in from Charleston Southern this season, but has already taken on a leadership role for the Tar Heels.

"Basketball is a game of runs," Keeling told the younger players. "You're not always gonna be your best, you're gonna have some ups and downs. You just have to have a short memory. If you mess up one play get it back the next play."

According to Bacot, he and Anthony didn't play to their expectations on Friday - so they turned to their veteran leaders for advice.

"Me and Cole, we didn't play as good as we usually play," Bacot said. "The veterans were just telling us it was the first game and we can get through it. 'Just come prepared. We got practice tomorrow, so we're just gonna keep working just to get better every day.'"

The team's experienced college players - some new to UNC fans, some familiar - will look to keep helping the first-years along when the season begins Wednesday against Notre Dame. In the meantime, with the uncertainty of Robinson's status, UNC might need to find a way to win without its senior captain.

"The whole team would need to step up," Anthony said. "Hopefully he will be back soon. I don't know what his status is right now but I'm praying for him, that's my brother. I'm gonna talk to him to make sure he's good. Hopefully we won't have to deal with that."


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[UNC men's basketball team downs WSSU in only exhibition game of the year]]> In its first game showcasing new faces, the No. 9 North Carolina men's basketball team routed Winston-Salem State, 96-61. Junior big man Garrison Brooks stood out in the Tar Heels' only exhibition game with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

What happened?

In a game where the score didn't matter, tactics and lineups were on full display. There was much speculation heading into the game as to who would start for North Carolina.

Head coach Roy Williams decided to go with the starting lineup of first-year guard Cole Anthony, graduate transfer guard Christian Keeling, senior guard Brandon Robinson, junior forward Garrison Brooks, and first-year forward Armando Bacot.

Early on, it was clear that Anthony and Bacot will have major roles for UNC this season. Both played heavy minutes early, impressing with multiple buckets each in the first half. But it also became apparent that neither player is close to being a finished product, despite the hype that came with each's arrival.

Anthony took a handful of ill-advised shots in the opening half, but still wooed the crowd with his ability to push the pace.

The "oohs" and "aahs" of the Smith Center crowd from the Tar Heels' early baskets turned to silence at the 12:19 mark, when Robinson hit the deck following a deflection that sent WSSU guard Xavier Fennell's shot into the student section.

The senior guard was helped to the locker room and didn't return to the game.

Despite the loss, the Tar Heels rolled to a 45-24 lead at halftime. Brooks and Robinson, the team's veterans, led the way in scoring with eight points each after the first 20 minutes.

In the second half, it was one of the team's new faces that showcased his abilities to the UNC faithful. Keeling scored all 14 of his points in then and displayed his smooth stroke from beyond the arc, swishing both of his three-point attempts.

Who stood out?

Brooks took advantage of an undersized WSSU squad, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds. At the end of the first half, the 6-foot-9 big man had already racked up eight points and seven boards.

Keeling couldn't find the bottom of the net to start the game. The grad transfer was brought in from Charleston Southern to help the Tar Heels fill the scoring void after losing their top-5 scorers from last season. But in the second half, the 6-foot-3 guard looked comfortable.

The Augusta, Georgia, native went a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor in the final 20 minutes on his way to a 14-point outing.

When was it decided?

The game was over before it even started. Winston-Salem State never led and the Tar Heels had a 20 point lead less than 10 minutes into the game.

It was never close as UNC asserted its dominance over the Rams throughout the entire game.

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels did what they were supposed to against an inferior opponent. However, North Carolina totaled 22 turnovers, a stat that Williams can't be too pleased with.

North Carolina will need to clean up some of its sloppy play if it wants to accomplish its lofty goals this season and defend its preseason top 10 ranking.

When do they play next?

UNC kicks off its regular season with an ACC tilt against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

@matt_chilson | @pupadhyaya_

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

Head Coach Roy Williams yells at the bench during the exhibition game against Winston-Salem State in the Smith Center on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. UNC beat WSSU 96-61.

<![CDATA[Cole Anthony, other new Tar Heels shake off nerves in Winston-Salem State exhibition]]> There were some surprises at the end of the first half in UNC's lone exhibition game against Winston-Salem State on Friday. The Tar Heels were up by 21 at halftime and ended up routing the Rams, 96-61, but the night didn't go as smoothly as the score may indicate.

Guard Brandon Robinson left the game in the first 10 minutes and didn't return after hitting the deck following a block. But while UNC was able to make do without its lone senior starter, the team's new faces struggled initially.

At halftime, five-star first-years Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot had combined for 10 points on just 4-12 shooting. Neither of the graduate transfers, Christian Keeling or Justin Pierce, were able to hit a shot from the floor, totaling one point combined.

Garrison Brooks wanted to settle his teammates' obvious first-game jitters, but didn't know what to say.

"I can say, 'Calm down, it's just a game,'" said the junior forward, who finished with a team-high 18 points and 11 rebounds. "But then again, they know it's not just a game. They know it counts for something more."

Though the glorified scrimmage won't factor into the Tar Heels' record or season stats, that "something more" Brooks referred to was likely the expectations that came with each new addition's arrival. For Anthony, those expectations are as lofty as they are for almost any player in the country.

The 6-foot-3 guard - the fourth-ranked player in the class of 2019, according to 247Sports - made a handful of ill-advised plays in the first half. At times, he pulled up for contested 3-pointers; other times, he drove into traffic and turned the ball over.

"His shot wasn't really falling tonight, but we all believe in Cole Anthony," junior guard Andrew Platek said. "We all want him to be aggressive, be that dog that we know he is."

Anthony had four of the Tar Heels' 23 total turnovers but found more of a rhythm after halftime, finishing the game with 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

"Everyone wants to do well, but at the same time, you're nervous," he admitted after the game.

Bacot and Keeling were the two other newbies who rounded out the starting lineup with Anthony, Robinson and Brooks. Bacot finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, taking advantage of a severely undersized Rams team. The 6-foot-10 forward also looked noticeably more comfortable in the second half.

But the player whose two halves were most distinct was Keeling.

After missing his only two shot attempts in the first 20 minutes, the former Charleston Southern guard went 5-5 and hit both of his three-point attempts after halftime. He finished the night second on the team in scoring with 14 points.

Multiple times throughout the game, head coach Roy Williams lost his cool. He got in players' faces, subbed out his starting five in frustration and yelled from the sidelines for his team to "guard somebody" when its effort on defense looked lackadaisical.

"They know I can get mad now," Williams said. "It's been in the back of their minds, but they didn't know that for sure. It's removed any doubt now."

It wasn't a perfect performance for UNC by any stretch. But Friday night was a time to shake out early season jitters and iron out wrinkles. After all, isn't that what exhibition games are for?

"We have a lot of work to put in. No one's gonna stress too much about this game," Anthony said. "We'll ponder upon it. We'll watch the game film, but it's just a learning experience."


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Word on the street: UNC basketball hosts open practice for students]]> Correction: The quotes attributed to Edly Hyppolite and Cheyenne Lewis were reversed. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

In a surprise opportunity, the North Carolina men's basketball team announced it would be hosting an open practice for students to watch, followed by a brief meet and greet afterward for students to take photos with the team. We here at The Daily Tar Heel said "Hey, we're students!" so we went and talked to students about how they think the upcoming basketball season will go, and who the team's MVP will be.

Edly Hyppolite and Cheyenne Lewis, first-years


"I think they're gonna do good because they have two freshman, Cole Anthony and Armando who are really good. Plus the returners, too." - Cheyenne

"I think they'll do pretty good as well. I didn't really follow them before I got to Carolina, but they're a really good team." - Edly


"There wouldn't (be) a doubt in my mind (that Cole Anthony will win it)." - Cheyenne

Lindsey Deaton and Carter Searcy, juniors


"I think we're looking pretty promising so far, it's going to be a great season." - Lindsey

"I would definitely agree. You know a lot of new talent (is) coming in, (we) lost a lot of starters but Roy always has a way of whipping them into shape. So I'm optimistic as well." - Carter


"I'm gonna have to go with Cole. Just the way with today has looked, he's looking really good out there." - Lindsey

"Cole is definitely a hot pick. I'm going to have to go with Leaky, though. I think he's going to take a big step forward ... I like him a lot." - Carter

Derrick Andrews, sophomore


"I think they'll do good. They're young. Typically a national championship team with Roy, you have more (veterans) than you have on this team. I think they'll make a deep run for sure."


"I'm gonna go with Armando. I think he's going to be a big shot this year."

Cambria Duke and Rebekah Pierce, first-years


"I'm excited, I think they're gonna be really good." - Cambria

"I think it's gonna be really good, I've always been a Carolina fan so I'm excited to see what happens with it." - Rebekah


"Cole Anthony"- Both

Tom Morioka, Kai White and Laolu Charles, first-years


"Final Four." - Tom

"I think they look good." - Kai


"Cole Anthony, at least offensively." - All


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com