Johnson, Jackson, Paige Receive NBA Combine Invites

According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, three Tar Heels have received invitations to the NBA Draft Combine, which will begin next week.

Justin Jackson, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson will all participate in the annual event which gives NBA teams a chance to scout and interview potential draft picks.

Kennedy Meeks, who announced he would enter the draft, was not on Goodman’s list of 64 of the 70 players invited to the combine.

Jackson and Meeks are both  underclassmen who have yet to hire an agent. They will have until May 25 to decide whether they will return to school or stay in the draft.

The draft will be held June 23.

Jackson, Meeks To Enter NBA Draft, Berry, Hicks Stay

Sophomore Justin Jackson and junior Kennedy Meeks have declared for the 2016 NBA Draft, but neither will hire an agent at this time.

Sophomore Joel Berry  and junior Isaiah Hicks will return to school.

“Justin and Kennedy have our complete support in taking this step,” head coach Roy Williams said. “Any player who is thinking about playing in the NBA next season should gather as much information as they can about their possible draft position.”

Underclassmen have until April 24 to declare for the draft and may still return to school if they have not hired an agent.

They have until May 25 to withdraw from the draft.

“We will continue to support and assist them over the next month to obtain the information that will help them decide whether they should remain in the draft or return to UNC next season,” Williams said.

Dewey Burke Receives Check From Ed O’Bannon Case

When Dewey Burke played basketball at UNC, he never considered the legal implications of playing as himself in the NCAA Basketball video game series.

“Back then we just thought it was cool,” he said. “It was fun to play NCAA 2005 and play as yourself. I don’t know if funny is the right word but it was such a cool think, I guess.”

Fast forward 10 years, and Burke is receiving a check for $171.72 from the NCAA and EA Sports, the creators of the game.

He is one of thousands of former college athletes, who are receiving checks after former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon sued because the game used his likeness without compensation or his consent.

Burke on Ed O’Bannon, paying college athletes and Tyler Hansbrough’s Guitar Hero prowess

After seeing a tweet about the case, Burke texted some of his former teammates to see if any were planning on joining the class-action lawsuit. At the time he said all of them either had already joined or were planning to.

“We might put our name in there for this if they’re going to send us a check,” he said. “Jokingly saying that we could spend it on a dinner together. It wasn’t something we took overly seriously.”

The NCAA and EA Sports made a basketball and football version of the game, which has since ceased.

Dewey Burke

Dewey Burke’s check. (Via Dewey Burke)

The two organizations have agreed to a settlement totaling $60 million. Former players were assigned points based on how long they played and what game they appeared in. These points correlated to dollar amounts, with the highest possible payout being $3,563.88.

“The whole thing is kind of silly,” Burke said. “The only person that wins in these cases are the attorneys, which was true in this case. The last I read, of the $60 million between EA Sports and the NCAA that they had to pay out, a third of it went to attorneys and the remaining balance was split by some 25,000 athletes.”

But the settlement is a victory for those pushing for compensation for student-athletes, something the NCAA does not allow outside of scholarship money.

Burke said he doesn’t think the schools should pay their athletes, but the students should be able to participate in the free market and get compensated for jersey sales or endorsements.

“There would be a market to put a Tyler Hansbrough or a Ty Lawson in a commercial for a restaurant or a car dealership or a retail store,” he said. “It doesn’t seem American, quite frankly, to not allow that to take place.”

And while the NCAA and student athletes continue to battle over the right to be paid, Burke and his teammates prepare for the dinner they promised themselves.

“Tyler, Bobby (Frasor), Deon (Thompson), Marcus (Ginyard), Danny (Green) those guys, we’ll all get together hopefully this summer,” he said. “One of the guys is getting married so hopefully it’ll happen then.”

Roy Williams Anticipates UNC Underclassmen Will Declare For NBA Draft

Expect UNC basketball players to declare early for the NBA Draft this year.

“I think that some of our guys will try to go to the combine, will declare and not hire an agent,” head coach Roy Williams said. “Then see how they play in the combine and I have no problem with that.”

Williams did not name any specific players he expects to declare, but there are a number of Tar Heels, including Isaiah Hicks, Justin Jackson and Joel Berry, who have pro potential. He said he wants a definitive answer from his players next week.

More players are expected to declare this year than previous years because of a rule change made by the NBA, which allows players to workout with a team and go to the combine without losing their eligibility. The combine is an event hosted by the NBA where potential draft picks get to showcase their skills and meet with team officials

“I think this should be better,” Williams said of the rule changes. “Especially if the NBA does what they say they’re going to do. If they will really be straightforward and honest with the kids and say ‘you’ll probably be top 30 or top 60’ or whatever.”

Previously players had to decide in April whether or not to forgo their remaining years of eligibility. This year, if they don’t hire an agent, underclassmen will have until 10 days after the NBA Draft Combine in May to make their decision. Williams said with the way the new rules are set up, more players should go to the combine.

ESPN reported on Wednesday evening that Jackson is expected to enter the draft and not hire an agent.

Not hiring an agent allows Jackson to go through the process and leave open the option to return to Carolina.

“If you play two minutes a game I don’t think it’s really necessary to do that,” he said. “But if you’re a good college player, why would you not?”

Players taken in the first round get two years of guaranteed money, as opposed to second-round picks or undrafted players who are guaranteed nothing.

“I mean I’ve had an NBA team took one of my players one time said ‘we don’t want anybody, but we had to take somebody,'” he said. “To me you should go to have some guaranteed money. I don’t think anybody should go not really feeling strongly they’re going to be a first-round pick.”

Players have until April 24 to declare and those that don’t hire an agent will have until May 25 to return to school.

Roy Williams Reflects On National Championship Loss

Roy Williams never saw the ball go in the basket.

“As soon as he went up to shoot it, I knew it was going in,” he said. “I watched his follow through and I never looked at the ball after that. I knew it was going in the hole.”

Understandably, Williams is far from the only Tar Heel struggling after Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater gave Villanova their first national championship since 1985.

Roy Williams

Roy Williams (Photo by Todd Melet)

Isaiah Hicks, the UNC player closest to Kris Jenkins on the final shot has said it was his fault Jenkins was open.

Williams said his power forward was too hard on himself and that Jenkins was not the man Hicks was supposed to be guarding on the play.

“He took way too much responsibility,” he said. “That shot was against North Carolina’s team. When we graded the film we gave Isaiah two good defenses on that one possession.”

In an effort to help him himself move on, Williams returned to work, hitting the recruiting trail last week.

“I did that because it helped,” he said. “It impressed Ty Lawson in ’05. It impressed Harrison Barnes in ’09.  And the other thing is if I’m going to go out after winning something I’m dang sure going to go out after losing.”

But no amount of recruiting will help Williams fully recover. Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater that secured Villanova’s second national championship is something Williams says is going to haunt him for the rest of his life.

“You can ask me the day before I die,” Williams said. “Because I’m sure I won’t be recovered then either. That’s very dramatic and that kind of thing, but I don’t think you ever get over it. I really don’t.”

Report: Joel Berry to Return for Junior Season

ACC Tournament MVP Joel Berry will return to UNC for his junior season.

Berry’s father, Joel Berry Sr., confirmed the news with Inside Carolina Friday morning.

Joel Berry led the Tar Heels in assists, steals, and three-point field-goal percentage.  He was second on the team in scoring behind All-American senior Brice Johnson.

Berry’s best games came in the biggest moments.  The guard led the Tar Heels with 19 points in the ACC Championship game.  A clutch second half performance in the ACC final against Virginia was crucial in putting the Cavaliers away.

One of Berry’s best performances of the year came in the NCAA title game.  He scored 20 points and hit all four of his three-point attempts.

It is far too early to predict what will happen next season for the Tar Heels.  But, Berry will certainly be a big piece of the puzzle.

A separate report from the New & Observer conflicts with the report from Inside Carolina.  According to the N&O’s Andrew Carter, Berry’s father said that “we don’t have a definitive answer,” regarding his son’s basketball future.

Kenny Williams Undergoes Knee Surgery

Kenny Williams, a freshman guard on the UNC men’s basketball team, had knee surgery Thursday.  The surgery repaired a torn meniscus in Williams’ right knee, according to the university.

Williams suffered the injury during the 2015-2016 season.  As freshman, he played in 30 games for the Tar Heels.  He is expected to miss six to eight weeks.  Williams should be fully cleared to return to action in time to start fall preseason practice.

Dr. Alex Creighton performed the procedure at UNC Hospitals.

In the ACC Tournament, Williams helped ignite a big run for the Tar Heels.  In quarterfinal action against Pittsburgh, a three-pointer from Williams fueled a 12-1 run.  Williams’ defense on Pitts’ leading scorer Jamel Artis also helped the Tar Heels score an 88-71 victory over the Panthers.

The UNC men’s basketball team returned to Chapel Hill to hundreds of cheering fans on Tuesday afternoon.  The Tar Heels finished the season as the NCAA runners-up after losing a heartbreaker to Villanova.

Brice Johnson Named Kenpom Player of the Year

UNC senior Brice Johnson has been named the National Player of the Year by the basketball analytics website

The website has become one of the go-to locations for statistical breakdowns of performance in various sports.

The site praises Johnson’s performance throughout the season with the third highest offensive rating in the country while also improving his defensive efficiency.

One area where new-age analytical junkies and old school basketball fans who rely on the “eye test” will agree is choosing Johnson’s best performance of the season. When the Tar Heels traveled to Tallahassee to take on the Florida State Seminoles in early January, Johnson finished the contest with 39 points, 23 rebounds, three blocks and three steals. A dominant performance no matter which lens you choose to view it through.

Kenpom also credits Johnson for playing his best games against the best opponents throughout the season. The site says that the strong NCAA Tournament for Brice Johnson pushed him ahead of the regular-season leader, Oklahoma senior Buddy Heild.

Hield finished third in the kenpom rankings behind Johnson and Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year Virginia senior Malcolm Brodgon.

A Far-Too-Early Look at 2017 UNC Basketball

It’s still hard to envision what a UNC basketball team without Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson will look like.

But the talent well will not run dry for the Tar Heels when the next rendition of the men’s basketball team takes the court in the fall.

Assuming that all of the underclassmen from UNC return to the Tar Heels, Carolina Blue and 247Sports’ Ross Martin says there will be a lot of what coach Roy Williams likes on next year’s roster – experienced talent.

“You’re going to have Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson as the key parts to that lineup,” Martin says. “And I think, right there, that’s your starting lineup.”

The other player that received major playing time throughout the latest run to the national championship game will be rising-senior Nate Britt, who Martin says can expect his playing time and role to increase in his final year as a Tar Heel.

In addition to sophomores Kenny Williams and Luke Maye, who played in the majority of games over the past season, UNC is welcoming in three freshmen that Martin expects to have an immediate impact – McDonald’s All-American center Tony Bradley, wing Brandon Robinson and combo guard Seventh Woods.

Martin says this will lead to continued depth at the guard and wing positions for UNC, while a lot of pressure will be placed on the Carolina big men.

“Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks are going to have to make big steps from last season,” Martin says. “They both were not very consistent. Isaiah Hicks had a great stretch where he was scoring double digits but, kind of, fell off during the end of the season. We all know how Kennedy Meeks, kind of, didn’t play up to his potential for the majority of the year but showed flashes at the end.

“But those guys are capable; they’re going to have to bring it more consistently like Brice Johnson did this past year.”

One key will be if any underclassmen decide to test the NBA waters. Martin says he sees Joel Berry, Isaiah Hicks, Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks as fringe NBA players right now that could benefit from another year in Chapel Hill. Most mock drafts line up with Martin’s opinion, but that doesn’t mean players won’t enter their names in the draft.

A rule change has pushed the date back by which underclassmen have to remove their name from NBA consideration, which means players will be able to go through the NBA combine and get feedback from NBA teams before making a decision to stay in the draft or come back to college.

All of the talent potentially returning plus the addition of a freshman class expected to make an impact doesn’t mean the Tar Heels will go without challenge in the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. Duke, Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia are consistently in the top 10 of the admittedly-far-too-early Top 25 projections for next season, with Duke as the near-consensus number one team and Martin’s early favorite to win the 2017 national championship.

“They bring in the number one and number two players in the country in Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum,” Martin says. “They bring back Luke Kennard, who really showed he could really score, Grayson Allen [and] Amile Jefferson.”

And, of course, there’s still an NCAA decision that is coming at some point that could impact the Tar Heels.

Listen to the full conversation with Martin and WCHL’s Blake Hodge below:


Joel Berry to Return for Junior Season

UNC Fans Flood Smith Center To Welcome Tar Heels

A number of people across the state of North Carolina came down with an illness that caused them to miss work or school.

Joyce Valley explained why her grandchildren were taken out of school.

“They have Blue Fever,” she said. “They made the principal’s list so it’s a field trip.”

The field trip she’s referring to is a trip to the Dean E. Smith Center to welcome the Tar Heels back from Houston, which is apparently the only cure for the made-up disease meant to give UNC fans a reason to get out of their obligations.

A couple of young fans with a balloon version of Marcus Paige.

A couple of young fans with a balloon version of Marcus Paige.

After a heartbreaking defeat in the national championship Monday night, you might expect a somber crowd to greet their fallen heroes, but that was far from the case.

Hundreds and hundreds of fans like Robin O’Conner packed the parking lot behind the Dean Dome to show their support for the team that came up just short of their ultimate goal.

“I just felt it was important to come to let them know that we’re proud of them,” she said. “I know they’re upset because of how the game came out, but they had a fantastic season and I just think we need to show them that we all support them for that.”

After the team got off the bus, they walked through the crowd, giving high fives to excited fans, before head coach Roy Williams and the three seniors, Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige and Joel James spoke.

The speeches were frequently interrupted by cheering and supportive fans.

“We appreciate everything you do,” Williams said. “The way you followed us, the way you’re here today.”

The sentiments of the team can perhaps best be summarized by Brice Johnson.

“All I can say is thank you,” he said.

After the speeches finished, the team and the crowd dispersed, but not before a rousing chorus of Hark the Sound.