CHAPEL HILL — If North Carolina basketball is to effectively replace Brady Manek’s beard with Baylor transfer Matthew Mayer’s mullet, a waiting game of more than three weeks might be required.
The same time frame also could apply to Northwestern transfer Pete Nance or Milwaukee transfer Patrick Baldwin Jr., if they don’t remain in the NBA Draft pool and the NCAA transfer portal indeed is the route Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis chooses to pursue after having a roster spot becomes available.
North Carolina reserve guard Kerwin Walton’s decision to enter the portal earlier this week opened up a scholarship, and versatile forwards on the transfer market who blend size and skill such as Mayer, Nance and Baldwin might present beneficial fits for the already loaded Tar Heels, particularly given the invaluable addition Manek proved to be this past season. —
The 6-foot-9 Mayer, 6-10 Nance and 6-9 Baldwin have maintained their college eligibility while going through the pre-draft process, which allows prospects to work out and meet with NBA clubs for the purpose of gaining feedback on their professional standing. The deadline to pull out of NBA Draft consideration is June 1.
Davis and the Tar Heels saw Mayer up close in March. North Carolina escaped No. 1 seed Baylor in overtime that day in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32, one of the special victories along the course of the team’s magical ride to the Final Four and national championship game.
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Mayer reportedly has been in contact with the Tar Heels since entering the transfer portal before the May 1 deadline. Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Memphis, Southern California and Texas Tech also have reached out to Mayer, per reports.
He supplied 9.8 points and 5 rebounds per game this past season, his fourth year at Baylor, while shooting 40.9% from the field and 32.4% from 3-point range. Mayer came off the bench and connected on 39.5% of his 3-point attempts for Baylor’s 2021 team that won the NCAA title. He scored 8.1 points per game during that season, a key contributor and capable defender in a defined role.
The 6-9 Manek was a four-year starter at Oklahoma, and played against Mayer in Big 12 Conference matchups, before choosing North Carolina as his transfer destination last spring. He authored a portal success story in Chapel Hill, an essential piece of the core that propelled the Tar Heels to the brink of claiming the NCAA championship.
Nance led Northwestern in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounding (6.5 per game), while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc this past season. I have played four seasons at Northwestern and like Mayer, entered the portal as a graduate transfer.
Baldwin, an elite high school recruit in the Class of 2021, had been viewed as a one-and-done college prospect. But an ankle injury limited him to just 11 games as a freshman this past season, with the move to stay home and play under his father from him at Milwaukee turning into a disappointment. He averaged 12.1 points per game and struggled from the field, shooting just 34.4% overall and 26.6% from 3-point range.
Still, Baldwin ranks as a likely NBA Draft pick, perhaps even a first-round choice, if he stays in the draft. Mayer and Nance generally haven’t been projected among the 60 selections to be made in the June 23 draft.
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Adam Smith is a sports reporter for the Burlington Times-News and USA TODAY Network. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or @adam_smithTN on Twitter.
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