UNC Basketball Exam Week: Grading the Perimeter

Brant Wilkerson-New

One of the slowest weeks of the college athletics calendar has arrived as players buckle down to finish the fall semester off with final exams and coaches on the road recruiting.

With that in mind, it’s time to take an in-depth look at every North Carolina perimeter player and give them a grade for their performance to this point in the season.

Only nine games into the season, consider these grades a quarterly report that are subject to — and almost certain to — change dramatically.

Cole Anthony — B

Anthony’s production is worthy of an A, but his efficiency has been a C at best.

At 19.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists, Anthony is having a season that will put him in position to be first-team All-ACC selection, but he’ll have to improve his 36.8 field goal percentage and 3.8 turnovers per game to get there.

Playing point guard at Carolina comes with great power and responsibility, and right now, the offense Anthony is leading is trending toward being among the least productive Roy Williams has had since returning in 2003.

One big positive for Anthony is his rebounding, which Williams has called the best he's seen from a guard. 

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Leaky Black — C

There have been occasional hints of Black taking the next step this season, but still hampered by injury, he hasn’t had the impact Carolina needs from him to be successful this season.

In 26.3 minutes, Black is averaging 4.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 32.7 percent from the field.

A pass-first point guard throughout high school, Black is still finding the right balance in his game in distribution vs. attacking on offense. As he gets healthy, he’ll have to become more assertive in the offense. At this point, he’s averaging just 5.4 field goal attempts per game despite playing the third-most minutes on the team.

Black’s defense is invaluable, and with 19 assists and 12 turnovers, he’s generally made good decisions with the ball in his hands.

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Christian Keeling — D

Keeling’s transition from Charleston Southern to Carolina has been shockingly rough.

While some have said he clearly doesn’t fit at the ACC level, that just isn’t the case. You don’t score nearly 1,700 points and average 17.9 points for three seasons without the ability to get buckets against any level of competition.

Keeling is 18 for 57 overall from the field and 4 for 19 from 3-point range, still struggling to find his place in the offense with a turnover rate of 26 percent. Something just isn’t clicking in his role — either his understanding of it or what he’s being asked to do.

If there’s a player with a chance to make a major surge in the near-term, it’s Keeling. If he can play with confidence, he’s got all of the tools to succeed.

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Andrew Platek — C

The junior guard has been a better defender, helped move the ball on offense and been more active all-around, rarely committing turnovers while averaging a career-high 18.4 minutes.

If only Platek could hit a few shots, he’d clearly be Carolina’s most-improved player, but that hasn’t been the case this season, hitting 14 of 40 from the field overall and just 3 of 19 from 3-point range. The law of averages says he’ll break out of that slump eventually, but it’s been a brutal stretch for a player that was expected to help provide some spacing.

Brandon Robinson — B-

Robinson is still finding his footing after returning from a sprained ankle, but through five games, he’s been able to provide a small offensive lift in averaging 9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

After shooting 6 of 16 from 3-point range in the Bahamas, Robinson went 1 of 8 from behind the arc against Ohio State and Virginia. That number has to improve for the Tar Heels to get better as a whole, but one of the more underrated aspects of his game is his passing, where he has 14 assists and seven turnovers.

Right now, Carolina finding a way to get better ball movement goes hand-in-hand with improved shooting.

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KJ Smith — B

Smith has only played 2.8 minutes in eight appearances this season, but he’s been steady and hasn’t hurt the Tar Heels. If called upon, the Baby Jet has understood his role and is capable of providing a few solid minutes as the primary ballhandler.

Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris — Incomplete

Francis and Harris haven’t played enough to be graded for their on-court production, but both get an A+ for getting into the rotation after suffering serious knee injuries in high school. Both have been credited by teammates for their toughness and work ethic since arriving in Chapel Hill.

Harris could be a promising rotation piece to provide offense off the bench while Francis fits in as a distributor.

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Overall — C-

Plenty of teams would love to have an offense that ranks 36 nationally in efficiency, but Carolina isn’t plenty of teams.

Anthony’s had his moments both offensively and as a rebounder, while Black has defended well while playing through injuries, but no one has been able to consistently put it all together. The Tar Heels aren’t running at the pace they need to, aren’t knocking down shots and haven’t yet moved the ball on the perimeter or fed the post as much as they should.

On the defensive end, the guards have shown some improvement in limiting penetration, getting out on shooters and rebounding at a high level.

As Williams says, it looks a whole lot better when the ball goes in the basket. A few more buckets, and the perimeter players are in for much-improved grades later in the season.

Major changes to the rotation and minutes distribution could be coming as Francis and Harris get back to full-speed and there's a little more competition for playing time.

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