UNC Basketball Recruiting: No Andrew Wiggins Means Wings Must Step Up

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UNC Basketball Recruiting: No Andrew Wiggins Means Wings Must Step Up
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The University of North Carolina may have taken a hit with Andrew Wiggins' decision to join the Kansas Jayhawks, but it's hardly the end of the world for the Tar Heels.

There is still loads of talent and potential on this team that could easily make a deep run in the tournament.

However, depth on the wing will be a serious concern for the UNC heading into the 2013-14 season. And former role players will be forced to step up their game.

P.J. Hairston, Leslie McDonald and J.P. Tokoto are the only wings on this squad. With Wiggins, you probably would have seen him at the 3 and Hairston the 2. McDonald would come off the bench as the sixth man and Tokoto would be given a little spot treatment here and there.

Add a returning James Michael McAdoo, a more experienced Marcus Paige and five options at center, and we're looking at a pretty talented group of starters.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Without Wiggins, one has to assume Hairston will take the 3, McDonald the 2 and Tokoto will be receiving a larger chunk of minutes at both positions. There will be a lot of pressure on Tokoto now to develop a consistent jumper.

On the bright side, not having Wiggins gives Tokoto the room to gain invaluable experience in his sophomore season. In his freshman year, he was already showing signs of becoming an elite defender with his quick hands and feet.

He was also very active on the inside, using his insane hops to crash the boards and slam home putbacks from seemingly out of nowhere. But his poor 10-of-26 free-throw shooting and 1-of-11 effort from downtown is a serious concern.

Tokoto will be one of those question marks that will make or break the Tar Heels this season.

But nobody will have more weight on his shoulders after Andrew Wiggins' decision than Leslie McDonald. Unless Tokoto plays out of his mind in the offseason, McDonald will finally be a starter through his senior season.

He isn't the dominant athlete that Tokoto is, but he makes up for that with his experience, shooting ability and smarts.

McDonald was off to a blistering start last season, burying 25-of-58 treys and scoring over 20 points twice. It was the Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald show behind the arc.

Then he was suspended for academics and tweaked his knee to boot. He was never the same after missing the next six games. McDonald was only able to muster double-digit points twice through the remainder of the season.

His three-point percentage also took a hit, as he was just 17-of-59 after coming back.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

For now, McDonald is looked at as a one-dimensional player that usually offers some pop on the perimeter.

However, I do recall Bullock having the same stigma before he was forced into a starting role. Before you could blink, he turned himself into an elite on-ball defender and an extremely versatile weapon with his shooting, passing and rebounding abilities.

Make no mistake about it, McDonald has that same potential.

Hairston and McAdoo will also receive some extra pressure, as the Tar Heels won't have a third proven scorer. But either Paige or McDonald could be that guy.

And who knows what will happen at center with Joel James, Desmond Hubert and Kennedy Meeks. Power forwards Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks could end up in the mix, too.

Even with Wiggins, there would have been no guarantees. You never really know what a freshman will do when he hits the college hardwood for the first time. How many No. 1 overalls bring home a title their first year?

According to Scout.com's rankings, Anthony Davis is the only one to bring home a title as a freshman since at least 2005.

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Wiggins would have just made them favorites, alongside the Kentucky Wildcats and their loaded recruiting class. But being listed as a favorite means very little. If you recall, Kentucky and Indiana were both considered preseason favorites to cut down the nets in 2013.

Kentucky didn't even make the tournament—and failed to get past Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT.

I'm not being delusional or downplaying Wiggins' talent. The Tar Heels would have been better with him, and they certainly could have used the depth on the wing. There is no denying this.

That doesn't mean today is Doomsday in Chapel Hill. Wiggins is most likely a one-and-done player, and now the Tar Heels have a chance to build for the future.

Perhaps in some strange, demented way, the program is better off without Andrew Wiggins. Unfortunately, we won't know until we see the development of a handful of Tar Heels.

 

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