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Heel Tough Blog: 2021-22 Front Court Preview

For the last 18 years, Carolina Basketball has featured some of the most talented and deepest frontcourts in college basketball, when Roy Williams was manning the sidelines in Chapel Hill. Now that Hubert Davis is on the sidelines, Carolina is still going to depend on their frontcourt to produce and play at a high level, it’s just going to look different. Carolina isn’t as deep as they were last season, but with an influx of transfers, you could argue they got more talent over the summer. Let’s take a look at the frontcourt for the Tar Heels as we get ready to start the 2021-22 season:

Armando Bacot:

A big boost for Hubert Davis was the return of Armando Bacot for his junior season. Bacot led the team in scoring and rebounding last season, and is looking to build off that this season. Armando figures to be the leader of the team this season, which means more will be demanded from him. There were times last year, where he simply disappeared and didn’t have an impact on the game. That can’t happen this season. Another off-season getting into better shape, and getting stronger, Bacot is going to be one of the more talented bigs in the ACC and the country. When he’s on the floor, the offense needs to run through him first. A big change for him will be expected to not only take perimeter shots but make perimeter shots, to help Carolina space the floor better. After getting passed over for the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, Bacot should enter the season motivated to help get this team back to the top of the ACC, and leave a legacy he deeply covets.

Brady Manek:

Manek is the first transfer we’re going to talk about, and he may be the key to Carolina spacing the floor, Hubert Davis desires. In the history of the Big 12, no player 6-10 or taller made more three-pointers than Manek, who is spending his extra season of eligibility in Chapel Hill, as opposed to Norman. Not only did Manek make a lot of three-pointers, but he also played with Trae Young, and was an integral part of their pick-and-roll offense, which we expect to see more of this season. Manek is a great outside shooter, who has better athleticism than he gets credit for. With that being said, he will need to rebound the ball much better than he did for the Sooners, as he averaged roughly six rebounds per game. He reportedly had nine in the secret scrimmage against Florida last weekend. If Manek plays to his potential, he has the ability to help take the offense to the next level.

Dawson Garcia:

You could make the argument that the Marquette transfer is the most talented big man for the Tar Heels. Garcia has the ability to shoot the three, take defenders off the bounce, handle the ball, etc. His decision to transfer in, solidified the depth for UNC this season and added more versatility to the roster. Garcia was a Big East All-Freshman for Marquette last season, and scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in their upset win over UNC last season. It’s unclear if he will start or not, but his role will be to help space the floor, play pick-and-roll, and rebound the basketball. His passing is an added bonus so don’t be surprised to see him initiate the offense at times for Carolina.

Leaky Black:

As he enters his senior season at Carolina, hopefully, this is the year he puts it all together and becomes the type of player many expected upon his arrival. The change in offensive philosophy should benefit Black, as his versatility should be unlocked. Scoring is always going to be an issue for him, but he can help this team in a multitude of different ways. He’s going to be counted on to be one of the better defensive players for this team, he needs to improve his assist to turnover ratio, and he’s going to need to contribute on the glass. When Roy Williams said he felt like he wasn’t reaching his team anymore, I think he was indirectly speaking about Leaky, because he hasn’t been able to get the most out of him. Leaky has a great relationship with Hubert Davis, who might be best suited to get the best version of him on and off the court.

Justin McKoy:

The Virginia transfer isn’t getting the hype that Manek and Garcia are receiving, but he may be the most important player for Carolina this season coming off the bench. McKoy transferred in after not getting a lot of playing time with the Cavaliers, but he has the physical attributes to be a big-time player for UNC. McKoy is going to bring a defensive presence to this team which is desperately needed. He’s going to be asked to rebound the ball out of the power forward spot, which he is capable of. He has the potential to be an offensive player, but anything he provides in the scoring column will be considered a bonus this season, moving forward he’ll be asked more of to score the basketball. UNC has lacked dynamic wings these last couple of seasons. I’m not saying that McKoy will be dynamic this season, but he has experience playing in this conference, and you can’t calculate how much value that brings to a roster in transition.

Donovan “Puff” Johnson:

Injuries limited Puff’s freshman season last season and may hinder him this season as he continues to rehab, and get 100% healthy. Once healthy, he will be asked to shoot the ball from the outside with precision, and play good defense, which he is capable of. Even when healthy, Puff is probably another off-season away from being a big-time player for Carolina, as he is still undersized to be a dominant force at this level.

Dontrez Styles:

One of only two incoming freshmen, Styles will be a reserve this season but will see minutes due to limited depth on the perimeter. He will be asked to play with energy and effort when on the court, as he continues to adjust to the college game, at the ACC level. Projecting forward, Styles can be a big-time player, once his body fills out, improves his shot, and proves to be a legitimate two-way player.

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