UNC Basketball: Why Tar Heels' Future Is Still Bright Without Rashad Vaughn

Rollin YeattsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2014

Jan 26, 2014; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) and guard Nate Britt (0) and forward J.P. Tokoto (13) react in the second half. North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Clemson Tigers 80-61 at Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

For many fans of the North Carolina Tar Heels, Tuesday was a day of mourning following Rashad Vaughn's decision to spurn UNC and commit to the UNLV Rebels. With the team currently shooting 31.9 percent from downtown, it certainly could have used the offensive pop one would assume the 18th overall recruit (2014 ESPN 100) could provide.

Well, wipe those tears, Tar Heel Nation. Doomsday is not around the corner just because Vaughn chose the Rebels instead.

In fact, had he committed to North Carolina, it could have ended up being an embarrassment of riches in Chapel Hill that could have led to overwhelming controversy and a lack of continuity.

While it is true the program will be left without a true shooting guard for the 2014-15 season, consider the wealth of point guards, power forwards, small forwards and centers that will be on the roster. Is it really necessary to have a true shooting guard when Roy Williams has guys like Marcus Paige, Nate Britt, Joel Berry, J.P. Tokoto, Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson as possibilities in the backcourt rotation?

Paige has proved he is clearly a solid three-point shooter this season. Tokoto isn't fantastic from range by any means, but anyone with a decent pair of eyes can tell he improved from last season in both form and efficiency. With his work ethic and continued help from Hubert Davis, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that he takes another positive step forward as a junior in that regard.

And Tokoto is pretty darn good at every other possible facet of the game.

Pinson is a player of a similar mold, with a team-first attitude, elite athleticism and a plethora of ways he can contribute on the court. Like Tokoto, the kid does everything you could possibly ask of a player.

But he has also improved his shooting, which was the biggest knock on the No. 10 recruit over the years. According to Inside Carolina's Sherrell McMillan (subscription required), Pinson has buried over 40 percent of his three-point attempts, 60 percent of his two-point attempts and is nearly shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line as a senior.

Those two could easily land in the 2-guard rotation next season, along with Paige, who will have an experienced Britt and another premier floor general in Berry to spell him at the 1.

Like Tokoto, Britt has struggled with his outside shooting as a freshman, but that doesn't mean he can't develop from there under the tutelage of Coach Davis. And while Berry isn't a consistent threat on the perimeter, he does go on streaks where he can light it up from deep.

Berry was 6-of-8 from three in a 31-point performance just last week.

We can argue all day long about the lack of shooters going into next season if you believe none of these guys will develop into perimeter threats. But looking at this season's Tar Heels, who are riding a five-game winning streak with only two players above 30 percent—and just one over 35—is it really necessary?

With a mid-range threat like Jackson coming in, who is averaging 32 points with one of the most ridiculously efficient floaters I've seen, along with Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks (playing his true position) and even a slim possibility of a James Michael McAdoo return, the Tar Heels won't be hurting for scorers.

And who is to say that Vaughn would light up the arc as a freshman? Sure, it looks like he would, given what we have witnessed from the prospect in high school. But the same was said about P.J. Hairston, who shot 27.3 percent from long range in his first season with the Heels.

Then, he went on to bury 88 treys on 39.6 percent three-point shooting as a sophomore.

Who knows if we would even get to see a second season from Vaughn? Most people believe he will be a one-and-done player, which speaks to the continuity factor.

In college, programs rarely win titles with a revolving door of one-and-dones. It takes continuity and team play to make championships possible. That's what Roy Williams seems to have built with this talented core of players.

There is no guarantee of a title in 2015—with or without Vaughn. And having a potential one-and-done player with the depth on this squad could force the Hall of Famer to play him over another guy who would actually make the team better. If he had Vaughn coming off the bench, that could open up a whole 'nother can of worms.

Don't get me wrong. Vaughn is an extremely gifted player, and UNLV is very fortunate to have snagged him for 2014-15. I'm not sure anyone would be complaining if the Tar Heels had landed that talent, either.

But it's far from the end of the world just because Williams and Co. whiffed on Vaughn. And with the potential sticky situations that could have ensued, Carolina just might be better off without him.

The 2014-15 squad is an extremely talented one, no matter how you look at it.


Rollin Yeatts is the lead columnist for North Carolina Tar Heels basketball on Bleacher Report. He also hosts a weekly all-sports video podcast at TSB Sports. Visit his B/R profile for more.