The reigning national champions could be in for a bigger reload than expected.
On Monday morning, North Carolina announced its three most important players heading into next season, junior point guard Joel Berry II, junior wing Theo Pinson and freshman center Tony Bradley, will enter the NBA Draft pool but will not sign with an agent. All are currently eligible to return to school next season if they choose.
The deadline for all early entrants who do not sign with an agent is June 12. Berry would be an All-American candidate heading into his senior season if he opts to play one more year with the Tar Heels. He was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player after averaging 14.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds this past season.
"We fully support our players taking this step of being evaluated by NBA teams to see where they stand in relation to the draft," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "All three players have options to do what is best for their careers and going through the evaluation process helps them make the best decision available to each of them."
Pinson was UNC's undeniable X-factor this past season; the team simply played better when he was on the floor. But Pinson missed 18 games to injury and averaged 6.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Bradley was a five-star recruit in the Class of 2016 and came off the bench to put up 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds. If he were to return for a second season, he would rate as one of the five or six best sophomores in college basketball next season.
UNC has definitely lost junior Justin Jackson, who declared and signed with an agent. Seniors Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Nate Britt are also through with their careers as Tar Heels. Of the three players declaring now, Bradley is probably in the closest position now to what Jackson was last season. When Jackson tested NBA waters in 2016, he was told how to get better, given no assurances he would be a first-round pick, then came back, won a national title and all but guaranteed himself lottery status. Bradley might be able to replicate that in 2018 if he opts to not jump to the NBA in the coming weeks.