CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- If there is one thing North Carolina has lacked in recent years, it’s a legitimate perimeter shooting threat to complement Marcus Paige. Kenny Williams is the first UNC signee since P.J. Hairston in 2011 to enroll with a reputation for being a sharpshooter from long range. The former VCU signee provided a boost to Roy Williams’s recruiting momentum when he signed in May, and he could offer a similar lift off the bench as a 3-point option.
Williams knocked down 152 career 3-pointers on 38 percent shooting in his four years at Lloyd C. Bird High School in Virginia. UNC’s perimeter depth may limit his playing time during his freshman season, but his natural shooting ability and quick release could allow him to find a niche in the program’s up-tempo offense. His slight frame – Williams is listed at 6-foot-3, 166 pounds – could present defensive challenges against more physically mature opposition. How he adjusts on that end of the floor may offer insight into the amount of opportunities he’s given to help the team with his outside shooting.
HIGH SCHOOL INSIDER
By Troy Manns, L.C. Bird High School
Kenny fits in perfectly at UNC because he’s the type of player who does whatever it takes to win. He’s addicted to winning. He took over 40 charges last year. Everyone knows he’s a knock-down shooter, so he’ll be able to make shots. But there’s more to him than that. Throughout his career, he’s one of those guys who’s always shown up at big moments. He’s just a very cerebral kid. Since his sophomore year he averaged 20 points per game and always shot between 45 and 50 percent.
He has a skill that a lot of people think they have, but they don’t really have. I know his teammates are going to love him, because he’s a team-first guy. I know UNC has very good post players, and when you have very good post players, the thing that helps them out is someone who can make shots – and he’s proven he can do that. He’s going to enjoy not being the focal point of opposing teams’ defenses. He proved during the spring and summer on the EYBL (AAU) circuit that he was the best shooter in the country.
By Rob Harrington
After a mostly disappointing recruiting cycle due to the NCAA malaise, Williams gave the program a shot in the arm when he committed in the spring. The Virginia native’s primary asset is a dangerous three-point stroke, welcome words to the ears of Tar Heels everywhere. In a perfect world he’d play a very limited role this year as he learns the college game, but he projects as at least a rotation player due to lacking perimeter depth. Most rookies struggle to knock in threes consistently, and Williams very well may follow suit, but this year will provide experience toward what could be a starting spot in 2016-17.
Xs & Os INSIDER
By Tyler Brooks
Although Carolina’s offense values the close-range, high-percentage shot above all else, Roy Williams is always quick to emphasize the inside/outside balance that must exist for his team to succeed offensively. Kenny Williams possesses the primary skill that allows UNC to achieve such balance from the outside – the ability to shoot the basketball. This particular skill supersedes schematic fit, though Carolina will specifically utilize Williams’s sharpshooting talent in its freelance offense as well as in its set plays. Williams will be the designed high cutter (and initial screener) in UNC’s box formation. He’ll need to learn to move shrewdly without the ball to secure shooting opportunities, primarily off the catch, in Carolina’s freelance. And he could make a significant impact within UNC’s zone offense.
By Adrian Atkinson
Williams, ranked No. 90 in the Class of 2015 according to RSCI, enters Chapel Hill with the reputation of a three-point marksman. So how have incoming Carolina shooting guards fared as freshman shooters? Here’s a sampling of some freshman-year 3-point percentages for prominent UNC wings, sorted by recruiting rank (RSCI from 1998 on, Bob Gibbons rankings prior to that):
Rashad McCants: 41.4% (72-174), No. 4
Joseph Forte: 35.9% (56-156), No. 4
Vince Carter: 34.5% (19-55), No. 8
Wayne Ellington: 37.1% (66-178), No. 8
Jason Capel: 41.1% (23-56), No. 10
P.J. Hairston: 27.3% (38-139), No. 11
Reggie Bullock: 29.6% (29-98), No. 15
Danny Green: 35.5% (27-76), No. 15
Donald Williams: 29.0% (9-31), No. 15
Melvin Scott: 35.0% (28-80), No. 37
Leslie McDonald: 20.8% (11-53), No. 44
Dante Calabria: 39.1% (9-23), No. 55
Shammond Williams: 30.0% (6-20), unranked
Hubert Davis: 30.8% (4-13), unranked
There are some freshman-year shooting success stories among top-10 Carolina recruits, but Williams is not that caliber of an all-around player. For UNC wings outside the top 10, it’s generally been poor percentages (Hairston, Bullock, McDonald), a low number of attempts/limited playing time (Calabria), or a combination of both (Shammond and Donald Williams, Davis).
Adjusting to the size/length/quickness of ACC-caliber defenders is challenging to an incoming shooter. So is finding a rhythm as a shooter coming off the bench. If historical precedent is any indication of what to expect from Williams this season, even getting to the mid-30s from behind the arc (a la Green and Scott as freshmen) would be a terrific accomplishment.
“I think what he’ll allow them to do is help stretch the defense. They have great slashers with Marcus Paige and another guy in Justin Jackson that you expect to have a lot of defensive attention, but I think Kenny Williams will help keep the driving lanes open for them and gives them a shooting threat off the bench, someone that can come in and shoot it from the three-point line.” – ACC Coach
(J.B. Cissell, Evan Daniels, Sherrell McMillan, Jack Morton, Ben Sherman contributed to this feature.)