A 101 of UNC and the 2017 NBA Draft
Guest Article by Farrell Sweeney
Being a Carolina basketball fan means never settling, so now that we have our National Championship for the year, it’s time to look ahead to our legacy. As excited as Tar Heel nation was for our 2017 National Championship, we are now getting excited for the impending NBA careers of our 2017 graduates and players who will be entering the draft this year. It is always bittersweet to lose players before it is time for them to graduate, but Tar Heel nation is always supportive of prospects who have the potential to be the next Danny Green or Antawn Jamison representing UNC in the NBA. This year, UNC has four players working out in this week’s NBA Combine which is held from May 9-14.
2017 National Champions Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt, Kanler Coker, and Stilman White are the 2017 National Champions whose playing terms are up. Of those graduating, Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks will be playing in the combine. Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley are the two players with eligibility left who will be playing in the combine. Carolina has the potential of regaining Tony Bradley, however Justin Jackson has officially left the University to pursue his dreams of playing in the NBA.
Junior Justin Jackson has declared he will be entering the 2017 draft without the option of returning to school for his Senior year. This is after Jackson’s decision to enter the 2016 draft with the option of returning to school, which he ultimately did to play for his Junior year. Jackson leaving this year is not surprising given his 2016 combine participation in addition to his having won a National Championship. Jackson enters the draft having played three years scoring 1,626 career points. He has also scored the second-most career points in the NCAA Tournament of any Carolina player, which is impressive given Jackson only played in the tournament for three years. He was also named the ACC Player of the Year this year joining the likes of Tyler Zeller, Tyler Hansbrough, and Antawn Jamison among others. He is currently projected to be selected in the first round among the top 10-20 picks, and will almost certainly be Carolina’s top draft pick this year.
Tony Bradley has entered into the draft but has not hired an agent yet. Depending on how he plays in the combine, Carolina could regain the Freshman center for the 2017-2018 season. Draft projections have placed Bradley as a late first round or early second round pick. Many are projecting that if the Freshman returns to UNC for his Sophomore year, he will have a good chance of being drafted in the top 15 picks. Bradley played alongside Hicks and Meeks this past year, and for the 2017-2018 season he would have the opportunity to be a standout center and the backbone of the team in a way he was unable to do his Freshman season. Bradley has until May 24th to decide whether he will continue onto the draft or remain at Carolina for another season.
Charlotte born and bred Kennedy Meeks has had an up and down four years at Carolina. He stepped up this past year after the departure of Bryce Johnson and became one of Carolina’s most reliable players. He averaged just shy of a double-double during his senior season with 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He was an integral part of Carolina’s success during the NCAA tournament as well, and we can undoubtedly contribute his performance as an important part of UNC winning the National Championship. While Meeks is not projected to get drafted in the first two rounds as of now, we certainly hope he will get picked up.
Isaiah Hicks, also an NC native, is the other senior to join the NBA Combine with Meeks in the hopes of getting drafted after graduation. In the 2017 season, Hicks scored on average 11.8 points a game, and he was known for his unmatched free-throw shooting ability, having hit 113 out of 145 free throws during his tenure at Carolina. Hicks is also looking to get drafted high in the second round or as an undrafted free agent.
The biggest question mark for Carolina fans is certainly whether Bradley will be staying or leaving. Justin Jackson is has been projected to be picked up by the Heat, so any Miami based Carolina fans could have Jackson to look forward to. Hicks and Meeks are both on the fringe of being picked up late in the second round or as undrafted free agents. Players such as Danny Green have unexpectedly created the Carolina legacy in the NBA, so we can’t count any of these players out as the next alumn to carry on the Carolina legacy in the NBA. Tune into the draft on June 22 to find out where our boys are off to next.
This article is sponsored by Wells Family Dental in Raleigh, NC. If you have any oral health or dental needs, many of the dentists and doctors at Wells Family Dental graduated from the UNC School of Dentistry.