Do the Tar Heels have another Yon-Wolf-Sin?
The last time Carolina’s basketball team had to rely on three freshmen alternating at the No. 5 – or inside post – position was in 1977, when senior starter and future NBA player Tom LaGarde went down with a season-ending knee injury after playing 20 games. LaGarde was averaging 15 points, more than seven rebounds and shooting 60 percent from the field and 78 percent at the line.
Dean Smith’s Tar Heels, who opened the season as the No. 3 team in the country, had just come off losing three out of four ACC games in late January, getting blown out at Clemson in the third game. What did Smith do? He told the team to take two days off and come back ready to practice, and he would tell them how they will win the national championship.
Of course, Smith wasn’t planning to lose LaGarde in a practice injury two weeks later, which seemingly scrapped his plans to take his team to the Final Four in Atlanta. He had three freshman centers, Rich Yonakor, Jeff Wolf and Steve Krafcisin, and Smith joked that maybe Yon-Wolf-Sin could combine to equal LaGarde’s lofty averages.
Not quite, but behind Phil Ford, Walter Davis, Mike O’Koren and John Kuester, the Heels did win the ACC tournament and make it to Atlanta, but lost that memorable heartbreaker to Marquette in the NCAA championship game Monday night after upsetting fourth-ranked UNLV Saturday.
Now, after three games, I am not saying that Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley and Brandon Huffman are another Yon-Wolf-Sin, but from their numbers you would never know it. Yon-Wolf-Sin combined to average 8-plus points, 5-plus rebounds, shoot 75 percent from the floor and about 65 from the line.
These new dudes, trying to replace two years of Brice, Kennedy and Isaiah, have combined to average 24 points and 15-plus rebounds a game, shoot 71 percent from the floor and two of them have yet to miss a free throw. The other, Manley, shoots 73 percent from the line. Averaging the three comes out pretty close to Yon-Wolf-Sin’s combo numbers, 8 points and 5 bounds.
Brooks and Manley are getting most of the playing time so far, and both look better than advertised, especially Manley, whose goal for Roy Williams was just to make him sweat. So, far this under-the-radar five man is playing the game like it’s no sweat.