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Scoring Is A Necessity But Not Necessarily A Path To NBA Greatness

People understandably believe their own hype but it’s a dangerous thing to do.

North Carolina v Duke
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 07: Garrison Brooks #15 of the North Carolina Tar Heels fouls Justin Robinson #50 of the Duke Blue Devils during the first half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 07, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

If you can score well in the ACC, chances are good you’ll be convinced you can do likewise in the NBA.

This hasn’t necessarily proven true.

Clearly convinced of their offensive worth, four of the last six players who entered a season as the ACC’s top returning scorer left school before their eligibility expired. So far, neither Syracuse’s Tyus Battle, BC’s Jerome Robinson, FSU’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes or BC’s Olivier Hanlan have made much of a splash since jumping ship.

At last report Battle is on a Russian team, Robinson is in the NBA, Rathan-Mayes is a G-Leaguer, and Hanlan is playing in Greece.

This year’s top offensive returnee is North Carolina senior Garrison Brooks, who like his team struggled through injuries last year. The lack of a healthy and adept playmaker, and a pool of surrounding talent denigrated even by coach Roy Williams, further hampered the 6-9 postman.

Brooks’s 16.8-point average didn’t even lead the Tar Heels, who shockingly posted a losing overall record in 2020. That’s unlikely to be the case in 2021, or whenever the next season might be.

In keeping with the inside-out orientation of UNC basketball, as handed down by Dean Smith, Brooks will get plenty of chances to score.

In fact, both Heels who returned to school as the ACC’s best scorer were big men – Tyler Hansbrough in 2007 and 2009 and Tyler Zeller in 2012. Zeller went on to be the ’12 ACC Player of the Year; Hansbrough won the award in 2008 between his exemplary scoring highs.

Brooks should be a favorite for 2021 ACC Player of the Year, particularly if Carolina returns to form as a national power.

Besides Brooks four of the other top 15 scorers return, and six of the top 20. Only once this century (2001) have 10 of the 20 scoring leaders returned. The last time even 9 of 20 came back was 2009.

Half of last season’s top-10 scorers were underclassmen, including No.2 Anthony Cole of UNC and a pair of Blue Devils, No.4 Vernon Carey and No. 6 Tre Jones. Anthony and Carey were freshmen.

Top 15 Scorers Returning From Previous Year, 21st Century
(Since 2000-01 Season)
Year Back Rank Previous Year Top Returnee Avg/G
2021 5 5,8,11,12,13 G.Brooks, NC 16.8
2020 3 6,9,11 J. Nwora,UL 17.0
2019 6 3,5,7,11,13,15 T. Battle, SU 19.2
2018 3 4,14,15 J. Robinson, BC 18.7
2017 3 2,3,14 G. Allen, D 21.6
2016 6 9,11,12,13,14,15 X. Rathan-Mayes, FS 14.9
2015 4 3,4,11,15 O. Hanlan, BC 18.5
2014 6 4,5,9,12,14,15 J. Harris, V 16.3
2013 8 4,6,7,9,10,13,14,15 C.J. Harris, WF 16.7
2012 4 7,8,9,12 T. Zeller, NC 15.7
2011 7 1,4,5,7,10,11,15 M. Delaney, VT 20.2
2010 5 6,7,10,12,15 M. Delaney, VT 18.1
2009 9 1,2,4,5,6,7,9,11,12 T. Hansbrough, NC 22.6
2008 7 3,4,6,9,10,14,15 S. Singletary, V 19.0
2007 8 2,5,7,8,9,12.13,14 T. Hansbrough, NC 18.9
2006 8 1,2,4,7,9,10,11,12 J.J. Redick, D 21.8
2005 9 2,3,5,7,9,10,11,14,15 Julius Hodge, NS 20.0
2004 9 4,6,7,9,10,11,13,14,15 Julius Hodge, NS 17.7
2003 2 12,13 Josh Howard, WF 15.9
2002 9 2,4,6,7,8,10,12,13,15 Jason Williams, D 21.3
2001 10 1,2,3,6,7,9,10,12,13,14 Will Solomon, C 20.9
No.1: BC-2; C-1; D-3; FS-1; UL-1; NC-4; NS-2; SU-1; V-2; VT-2; WF-2