The North Carolina Tar Heels came within seconds of getting a chance to hang another banner in Chapel Hill, but the month of May has been full of good news as both Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson withdrew their names from the NBA Draft and will be returning for the 2016-17 season.
The Tar Heels lose some important components of what made them successful last year, including Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Joel James, but don’t forget that they had arguably the deepest roster in the country, sometimes going as deep as pulling their ninth player from the bench. Paige, Johnson and James will all be missed by the Tar Heel faithful, but everybody else will be back. There aren’t too many teams in the country that wouldn’t have been satisfied with some of what Roy Williams had as reserves.
It’s been stated ad nauseam, but it bears repeating for those unaware of the rule. The NCAA now allows college basketball stars to declare for the draft, but if they haven’t signed with an agent, they’re allowed to return to the team if they choose as long as they do so prior to May 25. This will probably be a new trend now, as players will test the waters, examine their draft stock and then make a decision on what they want to do. Meeks and Jackson weren’t viewed as first-round selections by many. That may have influenced their decisions to come back for one more year.
Meeks contributed a little over nine points and almost six rebounds per game playing about 20 minutes a game last year. His numbers will rise in all categories this year as Williams will expect him to be one of the team leaders. Jackson was already a fixture in the Tar Heels’ scoring rotation and figures to do the same this year, as he’ll look to improve on his 12 points, almost four rebounds and almost three assists per game averages.
The ACC has reclaimed their stranglehold on college basketball. The conference figures to be a factor again next year, and North Carolina will again be right in the thick of things.