UNC Basketball: 5 freshman that would have started for other programs

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 27: Marvin Williams
SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 27: Marvin Williams /
5 of 6
GLENDALE, AZ – APRIL 01: Tony Bradley
GLENDALE, AZ – APRIL 01: Tony Bradley /

Tony Bradley

Tony Bradley’s time at the University of North Carolina was similar to that of Marvin Williams. And his Tar Heels’ squad was similar to the one Williams played on 12 years earlier.

Despite Bradley’s solid performance through limited minutes, the freshman big man never cracked Roy Williams’ starting lineup in any of the team’s 38 games. But he was exactly what the Tar Heels needed after narrowly falling short of a national title the year before.

The 6-foot-10, 240-pound center out of Bartow, Florida played efficient basketball for the Tar Heels, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 14.6 minutes of play. He shot better than 57 percent from the floor for a North Carolina team that already had a starting front court of Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.

Bradley’s value was felt most when Meeks needed a breather or Hicks got into foul trouble. The Tar Heels didn’t have to absorb a big drop off from starter to reserve when Bradley entered the game. His height and length were also valuable tools on the defensive end, helping him block and alter shots in the paint.

His contributions were felt throughout the season and during the Tar Heels’ run through the 2017 NCAA Tournament, where they avenged the prior season’s defeat to Villanova.

It was bittersweet for North Carolina fans, though, because Bradley’s success led him to the 2017 NBA Draft shortly after cutting the nets down in Glendale. And although his early departure was an unexpected one for fans and coaches, alike, his place in North Carolina basketball history is no less significant than that of Williams more than a decade ago.