After the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, Roy Williams had to find a way to replace the production and leadership of 3 senior starters, and two talented freshmen. One of the players he brought in to help the Tar Heels, was grad transfer Christian Keeling from Charleston Southern. In his 3 years at Charleston Southern, Keeling compiled over 1,600 points, and was thought to be a perfect fit in the Carolina system. When we saw him in person for the first time at Late Nite With Roy, he had all the makings to be a big time perimeter scorer, for a team that was desperate for one.
In an ideal world, Keeling would’ve been a bench player all year long, but this isn’t an ideal world so that didn’t happen. Brandon Robinson suffered an injury in a pre-season scrimmage, leaving a perimeter void in the starting lineup. Roy Williams decided to insert Keeling into the starting 5, and didn’t get the results he expected to get. In the 4 games he started before the trip to the Bahamas, Keeling failed to score in double figures once, and was only shooting 39% from the floor. Robinson returned to the starting lineup, but that didn’t help Keeling’s production even as he moved to the bench. In the 5 games on the bench, the most he scored was 7 points, as the senior was struggling to adjust to life in the ACC, and how to play in the Carolina system. Injuries forced Keeling to start against Wofford, where he scored 8 points, but was only 4-10 from the field. After the loss to Wofford, Keeling moved back to the bench and scored double figures for the first time as a Tar Heel at Gonzaga. Keeling provided 12 points in a loss that showed signs of life, as Carolina finally scored over 80 points for the first time all season long.
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The Gonzaga game was December 18th, it wouldn’t be until February 3rd against Florida State until Keeling reached double figures scoring again. The grad transfer continued to struggle shooting the basketball, and has lost the trust of Roy Williams. That was evident in a double overtime loss at Virginia Tech, where Keeling only played 9 of 50 possible minutes. The game against the Seminoles, appeared to be the turning point of the season for Christian individually. While the team was in the midst of a 7 game losing streak, Keeling scored in double figures in 4 straight contests, starting in Tallahassee. In the month of February, he scored in double figures in 6 of the 9 games played. His February scoring average was 11.6, as his production off the bench was a big part as to why the team snapped a near historic losing streak, and was looking like a team nobody would want to see in the ACC tournament. Keeling would fail to score double figures in the month of March, as the season came to a close with a blowout loss to Syracuse in Greensboro.
32% 3 Point FG
It took a lot longer than we expected for Keeling to become the player we thought we were getting when he transferred into Carolina. Keeling would’ve really benefited from having a second season under Roy Williams, like Cameron Johnson just prior to him. Nonetheless despite the shooting struggles, and the inability at times to get on the floor, Keeling did enough to earn our 6th Man of the Year Award, and will always be a part of the Carolina Basketball Family.