North Carolina has a rich history of playing an effective brand of team basketball. The chief byproduct of that way of doing things is lots of points on the scoreboard and ultimately, a large number of wins. What often gets overlooked in that team-first basketball approach is the thing that often leads to all those points being scored: the assist.
The litany of assist men to come through Chapel Hill is a list that would rival any school in the country. Cota. Ford. Marshall. Felton. Rice. Kenny Smith. Lawson. Paige.
Marshall holds the ACC record for most assists in a single season (the fourth-most in NCAA history).
Cota has the third-most career assists in ACC and NCAA history.
That’s a lot to live up to.
Interestingly though, despite that history, in the two years since the graduation of Joel Berry and Theo Pinson (who finished 13th and 16th respectively on the career scoring list), no Tar Heel has finished their career ranked higher than 37 (Kenny Williams).
Obviously, much of this reality can be attributed to back-to-back years of one-and-done lead point guards who were first and foremost scoring guards.
This is not to take anything away from either Coby White or Cole Anthony. For example, both freshmen averaged more assists per game in their freshman season (4.0 for Anthony, 4.1 for White) than Berry did in any of his four seasons (3.8 was his highest).
It’s simply to say that when your main assisting position on the floor is helmed by a true freshman in his only year playing college basketball, it’s not likely that he (or anyone else on the team) will be moving high up on a career rankings list.
At the same time, there certainly was movement on the career assists list during the 2019-20 season. What was that movement? Let’s check it out.
Following is the career assist numbers and ranking on the UNC all-time assist list for each player on the 2019-20 roster after the season:
- Brandon Robinson finishes his career as the 77th leading assisters in Carolina history. He was the highest-ranked career assister on this year’s roster. Robinson took on the role this year of a “poor man’s Theo Pinson”, distributing the ball well as a height-advantaged two (or three depending on the line-up).
- Anthony tallied 87 assists in his one-season Carolina career. As previously mentioned, he averaged 4.0 assists per game, which extrapolates to roughly 44 more assists in a fully healthy season and a total of 131. Over the course of a four-year career, that same loosey-goosey math yields 524 assists, which would be 12th all-time at UNC.
- Leaky Black seems poised to take on that Theo Pinson-type role over the next two years. He’s got the requisite height and length, not to mention that he’s actually been filling in at point guard off and on in his first two college seasons. His assist totals went from 1.2 per game his freshman year to 2.6 his sophomore year. As his vision and court awareness continue to improve, expect those numbers to continue to rise during his junior and senior years. He currently sits just outside the top-100 in Carolina history. He has 101 assists and needs just three to pass Sean May for spot 100.
- Anthony Harris had just three assists over the course of five games played, but projects to be the type of player that uses his energy and athleticism who will find teammates in the right position to score. Watch for his assist numbers to take a leap in year two. Not to mention that he received a medical redshirt, so he still has four years of eligibility to work on growing his totals.
- Garrison Brooks is already in the top-100 assisters in Carolina history (90th with 128 career assists). His averages have grown by nearly a full assist a season. He averaged 0.5 his freshman year, 1.3 his sophomore year, and 2.0 last year. Assuming a similar trajectory, Brooks will rise to around 2.7 or 2.8 for his senior campaign. Assuming a full season of around 35 games (which is a big assumption currently) and a 2.8 assist average, Brooks projects for 98 assists this year. That would give him a career total of 226 assists, replacing Luke Maye for 49th on the Carolina career list. Looking at the 48 players currently ahead of Maye, there are not many front court players that high up on the list.
The next career stat to review will be three-point field goals.
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