UNC Basketball: Luke Maye tabbed as preseason ACC player of the year

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Luke Maye
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Luke Maye /

UNC senior Luke Maye gets some high praise from a publication in the ACC season preview

After Joel Berry graduated and wrapped up his career at the University of North Carolina, a big question mark going into the season would be who will step up as a leader in his place.

The Tar Heels are returning three seniors in Luke Maye, Kenny Williams and Cam Johnson to go along with a very talented freshman class as well as returning several key role players. The trio should have the leadership trait by now and when things get tough for the Tar Heels this season, expect one of those players to step up and deliver.

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For Maye, he’s already considered a UNC legend just for the simple fact that he hit the game-winner against Kentucky to send the Tar Heels to the Final Four in 2017. UNC would go on to win the national championship and Maye’s shot has gone down as one of the best in program history.

But as Maye enters his senior year, he’s become a new player and now he’s getting some high praise from at least one publication.

On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated released its 2018-19 college basketball preview for the Atlantic Coast Conference, listing several predictions including player of the year. When it came down to it, Sports Illustrated tabbed Maye as their preseason ACC player of the year.

Here’s part of what they said about the senior forward:

"One of the most versatile frontcourt weapons in the country, senior forward Luke Maye is an absolute machine. The big man became just the sixth Tar Heel in the last 40 years to average a double-double for a season last year, all while shooting 43% from three-point range."

Maye really elevated his game in his junior season, averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Tar Heels, both career highs. He was a double-double machine last season and you could really see the offseason work paying off.

As we go into this year, Maye will take on a larger role in this offense. With Roy Williams deploying his small “death” lineup last season, Maye often times had to be in the paint.

This season the Tar Heels will likely turn to sophomore Sterling Manley as the starting center, allowing Maye to play on the perimeter where he’s at his best. Maye shot 43 percent from the three-point line last season and extended defenses out to the perimeter to guard him, causing some matchup problems.

Williams will look to get the best of Maye again this season and if he does, the senior could put up monster numbers.

Next. Andy Katz ranks UNC No. 2 in this category. dark

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