North Carolina is going to be pretty formidable again next season. Sure, it lost Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Joel James to graduation. But it’s bringing back everyone else. Big man Kennedy Meeks, who declared for the draft but did not sign an agent, announced his return to Chapel Hill on May 4. And now another big piece, junior Justin Jackson, will be back as well.
We expected both players to come back, which is why we slotted North Carolina No. 7 in our Ridiculously Early Preseason Top 25 (and one).
Jackson averaged 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists last season. He’s started all but three games in his first two years at UNC. The Tar Heels reached the NCAA Tournament title game last year, and Jackson grabbed four boards, scored nine points in the last-second loss to Villanova.
“I’m glad I had the chance to enter the draft and attend the combine where I was able to meet with a number of NBA executives and test my game against some of the top players in the country, but after discussing it with my parents and coaches and praying over this decision, the best choice for my basketball future is to return to school and play for the Tar Heels next season,” Jackson said in a statement. “My dream certainly is to play in the NBA and going through the draft process this year was another step toward reaching that goal, but I’ve loved my first two years at Carolina and am excited about the upcoming season. It’s going to be a fun year, I will be another year closer to earning my degree and can continue to develop as a person and a player.”
UNC figures to be a factor near the top of a competitive ACC once again. The trouble will be in toppling Duke. Carolina was the best team in the league last season, but Duke is the group ranked No. 1 on our list and will be done the same by most everyone else. The Heels will also bring in five-star center Tony Bradley, four star combo guard Seventh Woods and four-star shooting guard Brandon Robinson.