Tar Heels a lock for preseason number 1?
UNC landed a coveted transfer, but it wasn't the only state of North Carolina news - an ex-Blue Devil transfers, and the state's most-storied mid-major coach retired. Plus more hoops news!
Remember in A Star is Born when Lady Gaga went from waiting tables to performing sold-out concerts in, like, two days after singing alongside Bradley Cooper?
That feels a bit similar to UNC’s re-emergence in the past few months. OK, OK, North Carolina is a blue blood, so it’s not quite like the rags-to-riches story. But remember: UNC lost to Pitt at home in February and played for a national championship a month and a half later! Repeat: THEY LOST TO PITT AT HOME!
The Tar Heels’ momentum shows no sign of slowing down. Since its Final Four run, Carolina returned four starters, landed the top-ranked recruit in the class of 2023, and just reeled in the best remaining transfer. That’s where we’ll start.
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1. Alexa, play “Raise Up” by Petey Pablo
One day after completing an official visit, Northwestern transfer Pete Nance committed to Hubert Davis and the Heels. The move finalizes UNC’s roster and gives it a bonafide stud to play alongside Armando Bacot in the frontcourt.
Nance steadily improved in three seasons before blossoming into a star last year. His 2022 numbers paint the picture of a hyper-efficient player: he shot 49.7 percent from the field, 45.2 percent from three (on 92 attempts), and 76.8 percent from the line. Most impressively, he posted these numbers while sharing the court with three starters who all made less than 40 percent of their shot attempts (Boo Buie, Ty Berry, and Chase Audiege). Talk about shouldering the offensive load.
So what does it mean for the Tar Heels? Well for one, if Davis can get a player on campus, it’s likely a wrap. Opposing coaches ought to throw in the towel like the Suns in game 7.
But on the court, the 6-10 forward’s versatile skill set should fit right into the second-year coach’s system. Nance’s repertoire includes shot creation from the high post, facilitation from the elbow, and shooting from distance. While he doesn’t boast the same high release as Brady Manek, you can still expect to see plenty of 3s off of pick-and-pops.
Additionally, Nance is an insanely high-level processor — the ball will never stick in his hands; he’ll find Bacot in high-low action, Leaky Black on baseline cuts, and RJ Davis and Caleb Love for catch-and-shoot opportunities.
As the big man’s decision broke, numerous national media members swiftly adjusted their preseason polls, bumping the Heels up to number 1 (some already had them at 1). And who can blame them? Few squads in recent years have matched their level of talent and experience (UNC projects to start two juniors, one senior, and two super-seniors).
But while UNC fans (like me) may carry themselves with unrivaled bravado this offseason, Hubert Davis will indulge in no such hype. He made it clear in a press conference last week that a preseason number 1 ranking “absolutely means nothing.”
I respect it, Coach. But I will continue to talk that talk.
2. After three decades at Davidson, Bob McKillop retires
Who would’ve thought that Davidson, North Carolina, would become such a noteworthy basketball location? It showcases a gorgeous campus … but drive about 40 minutes south to Charlotte, and you’ll find high schools that easily double the college’s size.
And yet, despite a student enrollment of fewer than 2,000 students, Bob McKillop turned Davidson into a mid-major power. With an intricate motion offense that often featured 3-point shooting at every position, McKillop created headaches for opposing coaches for 33 seasons.
But on Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after his star pupil Steph Curry captured his fourth NBA championship, the head coach called it a career.
In its press release, Davidson’s website listed all of his noteworthy accomplishments. Here’s a breakdown of them by the numbers:
10 NCAA Tournament appearances (1998, 2002, 2006-08, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2018, 2022)
1 Elite 8 appearance (2008)
17 seasons of 20 or more wins (including seven seasons of 25 or more wins)
43 straight conference wins from 2007 through 2009
15 conference regular-season titles (13 in the SoCon, 2 in the A-10); 8 conference tournament titles (7 in the SoCon, 1 in the A-10)
A career-winning percentage of 62.5
The athletic department named McKillop’s son Matt the next head coach shortly after the announcement became public.
You can read more on McKillop’s legacy in the next section.
3. Anthony is the new Black
Highly-touted freshman Anthony Black logged his first practice as Thursday an Arkansas Razorback, per Hawg Sports. The five-star guard arrived in Fayetteville later than his teammates due to the FIBA U18 Tournament, where he helped Team USA capture a gold medal last week.
Black gained notoriety as a prep player for his unique size and skill combination (6-7 lead guards don’t come around all that often). In particular, he flashed potential as a high-level slasher and an incredible transition playmaker.
After one collegiate practice, Eric Musselman can’t stop gushing:
First of all, in college guys usually don’t miss eight practices or seven practices, whatever we had. But he comes in and literally knew almost our entire playbook that we put in, so far […] But he literally was asking about third and four options on the plays and we’ve got some guys that have been here since Day 1 that are still trying to figure out the second option […] And I was like, ‘Wow.’ Almost like a quarterback room... That’s what I thought I was in. I thought I was with an NFL veteran QB who was asking questions and had just missed a couple of OTAs or something.
The Arkansas coach isn’t given to hyperbolics. That’s good news for the Razorback faithful — coming off of back-to-back Elite 8 appearances, Arkansas enters the season with a buzz not felt since the ‘90s. Black’s progression will function as a pivotal piece in the Hogs’ quest to reach their ceiling.
4. Michigan finally gets a transfer!
However, none of them chose the Maize and Blue. (Bates might still commit, who knows?) The roster looked dire, as Juwan Howard needed to replace starters Eli Brooks, Moussa Diabate, and Caleb Houstan.
But ease some of your fears, Michigan supporters. A bright-eyed, former top-35 recruit is here to help.
Baker didn’t live up to his high school pedigree at Duke. But he could provide exactly what this Michigan team needs — namely, shooting. In order for All-American center Hunter Dickinson to perform optimally, he needs adequate spacing around him. And before acquiring Baker, the Wolverines had just one proven shooter in Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn.
But beyond his 3-point marksmanship, Baker may still have some untapped upside. The fifth-year senior, now healthy after offseason hip surgery, could flourish in a new situation with increased opportunity. At 6-7, he possesses prototypical size for a wing, and he’s more crafty with the ball than he gets credit for.
At worst, Baker gives Howard a shooting specialist off the bench. Best-case scenario, he grows into a solid starter. Ant Wright provides an in-depth breakdown of his game here.
5. Penny lands another piece
Last week, Emmanuel Akot made plans to visit Western Kentucky, Memphis, and NC State. The Hilltoppers got the first visit, but it ultimately didn’t matter; after Wednesday’s trip to West Tennessee, he learned all he needed to know. (An evergreen reminder: good things don’t happen to NC State).
The Boise State transfer will suit up for the Tigers this upcoming season.
“I chose Memphis because of the belief Coach Penny Hardaway and the staff have in me and the special opportunity to play high-level basketball with great teammates that will push me every day to get better,” Akot told On3.
The 6-8 forward can do a little bit of everything. Over the Broncos’ final five games, he spent 22 percent of his minutes at the point, 39 percent at 2-guard, 17 percent at small forward, and 6 percent at power forward (per KenPom). Akot’s 2022 stat line reflects his flexibility — he averaged 10.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per contest. As Sean Paul noted last week, the former Top 50 recruit will play dogged defense and skillfully run the break.
Akot is Memphis’ fourth transfer addition this offseason, joining Kendric Davis, Elijah McCadden, and Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu.
Going beyond Steph
Over the weekend, various coaches, alumni, and media members reacted to Bob McKillop’s retirement. Among the notables were Bobby Cremins, Mike Rhodes, Jay Bilas, Fran Fraschilla, and former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx.
However, even amid all the kind words from outsiders, the head coach left the biggest impression on his players. Of course, you’re familiar with Steph Curry. But who else developed under McKillop?
Here are the top 3 non-Steph players from McKillop’s tenure:
De’Mon Brooks, 2011-2014: The 6-7 forward shined as a face-up big man before everybody wanted face-up big men. With his combination of impressive perimeter skills and a strong post game, Brooks won two SoCon Player of the Year awards, took Davidson to two NCAA tournaments, and even earned Honorable Mention All-American honors in 2012 and 2014.
Peyton Aldridge, 2014-2018: For four seasons, Aldridge stuffed the stat sheet at an absurd level. The 6-8 stretch big dominated as a junior and senior, averaging 20.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists during that two-year span. After winning Atlantic-10 Player of the Year in 2018, Aldridge led the Wildcats’ charge into the postseason, where they gave Kentucky all it could handle in the Round of 64.
Kellan Grady, 2017-2021: Grady edges out Tyler Kalinoski solely because he was an absolute bucket at Davidson. A big guard with a proclivity for pull-up jumpers, the New Jersey native never averaged less than 17 points per game in his four-year career. Grady always elevated his game against high-majors too; he scored 18 against UNC as a freshman, 18 against Purdue as a sophomore, and 28 against Marquette as a junior.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
A McDonald’s masterpiece
This team was pretty, pretty good.
That’s two Hall of Famers (Garnett and Pierce), an NBA Finals MVP (Billups), maybe the best dunker ever (Carter), a NPOY (Jamison), two guys from a legendary college team (Mercer and Turner), the terrific college players (Shammgod, Abdur-Rahim, Traylor, Bullock, McKie, McCoy, Clack, Robertson) and a true icon (Starbury).
MIKE PRATT, 1948-2022
Remembering a Kentucky legend
Late Thursday night, Kentucky’s Mike Pratt passed away at age 73 from a battle with cancer. Pratt played at UK from 1967 to 1970, started as a radio analyst for the ‘Cats in 2002, and got inducted into the Kentucky Hall of Fame in 2009.
Jerry Tipton wrote a tremendous obituary for KentuckySports, including statements from those most impacted by him. One of the most notable quotes comes from play-by-play announcer Tom Leach:
“I would say he’s kind of like a big brother,” Leach said Wednesday. “Mike knew everybody. Everybody just loved and gravitated to him. So, I got to be the younger brother just hanging around and listening to the stories and loving it.”
Lastly, the Kentucky men’s basketball account tweeted out a tribute video containing Pratt’s best color commentary.
PREVIEWING THE NBA DRAFT
Is Jaden Ivey really THAT guy?
All last season, Purdue’s Jaden Ivey regaled fans and spectators with his open-court speed and his acrobatic athleticism. While you may be familiar with his dunk highlights, perhaps you don’t know how he’ll translate to the NBA.
Rob Dauster and The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie have you covered.
Yes, Ivey entices with his transcendent burst. But growing as a decision-maker and passer remains paramount to his long-term future. Tune in below to learn more.
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THE FAST BREAK
What to read as you give Honestly, Nevermind the “honestly, nevermind” treatment
A final note on the Davidson front: Steph Curry will have his jersey retired on August 31. All it took was him winning a Finals MVP (and getting his degree).
Providence landed 4-star recruit Garwey Dual, a 6-5 point guard out of Carmel, Indiana.
In somber news for North Carolina, Tar Heel great Lennie Rosenbluth passed away at age 89.
We got roasted because
of KenPom’s stupid metricswe didn’t properly label the tweet.
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