UNC freshman power Tony Bradley decided on Wednesday to leave his name in this year’s NBA draft, and the defending national champions will feel the ramifications.
Bradley, who averaged 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds this past year, was going to be the inside focal point for the North Carolina attack this upcoming season. Now Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams will have to make due with a batch of new faces.
Bradley is UNC’s first one-and-done player since Brandan Wright in 2007. It has been a while since a player has left Chapel Hill so early, and the graduations of Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks have left the Tar Heels vulnerable in the post next season.
One player in the paint next year that UNC fans will recognize is Luke Maye. Maye’s buzzer beating shot against Kentucky in the NCAA Regional Final immediately made him a part of UNC history. Maye will be relied on much more next year, needing to improve upon his averages of 5.5 points and 3.9 rebounds. Maye and senior point guard Joel Berry II could be an effective pick and roll combination, with Maye popping out to the three-point line occasionally.
Williams also brought in big men from the high school ranks that Carolina will expect to have a quick impact next season. Power forward Garrison Brooks will be the newcomer with the highest expectations. The 6-9 Auburn, Alabama native is a pure post player that will get lots of touches near the basket, the four-star recruit fits the mold of past UNC forwards like Hicks and Brice Johnson.
Center Brandon Huffman may also get quality minutes down low for UNC next season. The Raleigh native from Word of God Christian Academy turned down offers from Indiana and UCONN to join the Heels next year. Huffman will be considered more of a long-term project for Williams, the kind of big man that develops over time.
UNC is also looking to possibly add a frontcourt player via the graduate transfer route. Pitt junior swingman Cam Johnson has been on the UNC radar for some time, Johnson graduated from Pitt in only three years and has two years of eligibility remaining. Pitt has said Johnson will not be granted two seasons if he transfers to another ACC school, so this case will have to be watched closely.
Bradley’s early departure is something UNC has not had to experience for some time. Many blue blood schools like Kansas, Kentucky, and Duke lose freshmen to the NBA every summer. That’s the reality of today’s college basketball, and UNC will feel the impact next year.