• Joshua Marlow

Heel Tough Blog: 2019-20 Basketball Awards

The 2019-20 season has been over for some time, which has given our staff some time to reflect on the year. While it wasn’t anywhere near the season we hoped for, or even expected we still were exposed to some great play. Even though the team didn’t compete to win a ACC regular season championship, and didn’t take home any hardware, we felt obliged to hand out some awards ourselves:


MVP:


Josh


  • Garrison Brooks

In the preseason Garrison Brooks was the best known commodity on the team, but not because of his offensive prowess. In his first two seasons, Roy Williams didn’t hesitate to call the big man from Lafayette, Alabama the best defender on the team. When Cole Anthony went down with a knee injury, nobody knew where the offense would come from, until Brooks emerged as a complete post player. Over the course of the ACC season, Brooks led the conference in scoring at 18.8 points per contest. He did so while shooting the second best percentage, and second in rebounding. He also led the team with 12 double doubles. Had Carolina had the type of season they were expected to have, Brooks would’ve easily been an All-America candidate. Nonetheless he still earned All-ACC honors, and is poised to have a big time senior season.


Anthony


  • Garrison Brooks

While Cole Anthony may have had a huge impact on the direction of this team, the impact that Brooks had on this team in 2019-20 can not be appreciated enough. Brooks was the Tar Heels best all-around player on this year’s team, finishing the season averaging 16.8 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game and 2.0 assists per game. His 18.8 points per game in conference play led the conference, aided by his eleven conference games with 20+ points. He finished the season with twelve double-doubles, headlined by a stretch of six straight from late December to late January. Brooks earned second team All-ACC honors, but one has to believe that if this team had been able to find a few more wins, he would have been a shoe-in for first team and had more of a case in the conference player of the year discussion.




Bob Donnan - USA Today Sports



Most Improved:


Josh


  • Garrison Brooks

This was an easy choice for me, because nobody saw this growth coming from Brooks. Brandon Robinson matured into an ACC caliber player, but even his growth couldn’t match Brooks’. When Armando Bacot committed to Carolina, he was the prototypical big man, and many thought the offense would run through him. While Bacot struggled adjusting to the college game, Brooks took a major step forward. Garrison displayed an offensive game, nobody thought he had, while also still patrolling the painted area.Brooks’ displayed a versatile game, being able to score with his back to the basket, face up, and even made a couple of three pointers. His points per game jumped up almost 9 points from his sophomore season, and his rebounding went up almost 3 per game as well. Brooks will need to become more consistent from the foul line, but he’s poised to be the face of the team looking to redeem itself.




Anthony


  • Garrison Brooks

There was definitely a strong case for Brandon Robinson, who also took a major step forward, but Brooks’ growth is just too much to ignore. Brooks’ 16.8 points per game was a 8.9 point improvement from 2018-19 and his rebounds per game saw a huge increase, as well, jumping from 5.6 to 8.5 per game. Although he still had his struggles at the free throw line, he shot the highest free throw percentage of his career and while his shooting percentage did decrease, he continued to develop his range, even knocking down the first two 3-pointers of his career. While many had their criticisms of his efforts on the defensive end, Brooks increased his defensive efficiency rating from 2018-19, finishing with a 104.8 rating, a 6.3 improvement. Brooks went from being a role player that was mainly on the floor for his defensive prowess, to a guy that will have a strong case to win ACC Player of the Year in 2020-21.


6th Man:


Josh


  • Christian Keeling

There were many options for this award, as Carolina was ravaged by injuries all season long. Ultimately I decided on Christian Keeling. Keeling was the most consistent player off the bench, which at times wasn’t much. In the month of January Keeling found himself buried at the end of the bench, that all changed in February. In the 9 games in February, Keeling scored double figures 6 times, and his month average came out to 11.7 points per game. While Christian didn’t have the type of season he expected to have, it was still productive enough to earn him the nod here.




Anthony


  • Christian Keeling

This is the hardest award to decide, because frankly none of the players that played significant moments off the bench played all that well. With that being said, I’ll give the edge to Keeling because of the successful stretch he put together at the end of the season. In the month of February, Keeling averaged 11.7 points per game, posting double-digit points in six of the nine games played in that month. For the season, Keeling averaged 6.4 points per game and shot 42.8% from the field, numbers that aren’t great, but are enough to earn him the honors here.



Andy Mead - Getty Images


Best Freshman:


Josh


  • Armando Bacot

Anthony might’ve been the clear choice here, but I decided on Bacot because he was more available, only missing 1 game. Bacot averaged 9.6 points & 8.3 rebounds while compiling the second most double doubles as a freshman at UNC. His best games were against Elon & Oregon, but his best moment might’ve been when he suited up against Virginia. Just 4 days earlier, Bacot suffered a nasty ankle injury, and his status was uncertain. Bacot somehow managed to play through the pain, showing a level of toughness any team needs. Armando will need to be more consistent at finishing at the rim, and continue to expand his range, but him already committing to returning next season, he’s in line to grow like Brooks this season.



GoHeels.com




Anthony


  • Cole Anthony

While neither freshman who played significant minutes lived up to expectations, Anthony’s sky-high expectation still lead to a solid freshman season. His 18.5 points per game ranked second-most among players in the ACC and his 20.5 points per game in conference play would have ranked first in the conference had injury not prevented him from qualifying. He led the team in assists with 4.0 per game and his 5.7 rebounds per game finished behind only Brooks and Armando Bacot. While his field goal percentage of 38.0% wasn’t great, it was one par with that of the other major freshman guards in the conference. It may not have been the year we expected, but maybe we just expected too much from Anthony to begin with.



CBS Sports


Best Defender:


Josh


  • Garrison Brooks

In addition to being the primary focus of the offense, Brooks was still the most reliable defender on a team that struggled to defend. His defensive rating of 104.8 was the second best for Brooks and the second best of his Tar Heel career. He was 11th in the ACC in the Defensive Box Plus/Minus category. He was still the solid defender he has been, despite taking the load on the offensive end of the floor.




Anthony


  • Brandon Robinson

This was another difficult one to decide on. Brooks was definitely the biggest competitor, as he had another solid year on the defensive end, and Andrew Platek has a surprisingly efficient season defensively. In the end, though, B-Rob gets the nod, as he led all five starters in defensive efficiency posting a 105.4 rating. Robinson averaged 1.0 steals per game this season and was the guard that did the best job of protecting the perimeter throughout the season.


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