CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina’s 2016-17 season is not dependent upon the success of its freshman class, although that group of newcomers has turned heads through the first two weeks of practice.
The 2016 class includes forward Tony Bradley, combo guard Seventh Woods and wings Brandon Robinson, and Shea Rush. The quartet have all impressed in different ways, but so far Bradley has stood out among the group.
At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Bradley literally stands out amongst everyone else on the team. During his first practice in a UNC uniform, it was Bradley’s stature that took his teammates by surprise.
“One thing that really got me is how he is so freaking long,” senior forward Isaiah Hicks said during UNC basketball’s media day on Tuesday. “It catches me and Kennedy (Meeks) by surprise all the time. Like I shoot the ball, miss it, get the rebound and try to go up real quick and he just blocks it.”
Bradley’s length is initially imposing, but it’s how he uses it that has piqued the interest of senior forward Kennedy Meeks.
“His length is a big presence,” Meeks said. “He rarely has to jump to block shots, we’ve seen it in practice. He also does a great job of running the floor. For somebody to be that large and do the things he does is amazing, especially at his age.”
While Bradley dominates the discussion in the post, it’s the play of Georgia-native Brandon Robinson (6-foot-5, 162 pounds) on the wing that’s caught the eye of a few UNC guards.
“Brandon actually has a lot to work with,” sophomore guard Kenny Williams said. “I didn’t know, all I heard was that he could shoot. He can do much more – he can create, he can drive, plus he has a little crab dribble that he likes to do that he does well.”
Woods (6-2, 180), the combo guard known more for his highlight reel dunks than his perimeter shooting, meanwhile has been making headway with his jumper.
“Seventh has been good at attacking the rim, and he’s shooting the ball a lot better than when he first got here,” Williams said. “I think his confidence is up in terms of shooting.”
With UNC being only a few practices into the season, it’s difficult to know where the freshmen fit into the rotation, but head coach Roy Williams says that Bradley has the best chance to make a difference early.
“It’s hard to say after six practices, but I think Tony is going to be able to help us more,” Williams said. “We’re a little thin; we only have four big guys, period. So there’s some time there where he’s going to be available for someone…
“I think Tony’s shown a little more ability. Seventh was banged up all summer and didn’t do too much. Brandon Robinson has been shooting the ball pretty well.”
Williams also added that Woods is going to see time at point guard in the rotation.
Senior guard Nate Britt says the most important lesson for the freshmen at this early stage of the season is to get adjusted to the college game. That’s been easier for Bradley thus far, according to Britt.
“Big Tony, he’s not backing down from anybody,” Britt said. “He’s going at Kennedy, he’s going at Isaiah, he’s going at Luke (Maye).”
While freshman class contributions aren’t required for UNC to make another deep run in March, the depth that group can provide will bolster an already solid lineup.