Was Manek best transfer in Carolina basketball history?

By R.L. Bynum

Brady Manek’s perimeter shooting, grit inside and leadership in helping North Carolina make an improbable run to the national championship game had many Tar Heels fans wondering if he was the best transfer in program history.

You have to go back to the early 1970s to find a transfer who had more impact but you only have to look on last season’s roster team to find a member of his family.

The question was asked many times last season: Where would the Tar Heels be without Manek? The Oklahoma transfer averaged 15.1 points and 6.1 rebounds. He scored a team-high 98 3-pointers and at least 20 points in 10 games.

He scored at least three 3-pointers in each of the six NCAA tournament games and put up two of his five double-doubles during the tournament. Manek was a major factor in the first two rounds, scoring a season-high 28 points in the 95–63 first-round win over Marquette and 26 in the 93–86 overtime victory over Baylor before inexplicably being ejected.

He blocked four shots in the national championship game loss to Kansas, tied for the third-most all-time in an NCAA final.

Younger fans might compare Manek to Cameron Johnson, who had two stellar seasons after coming over from Pittsburgh and is now having an outstanding NBA career with the Phoenix Suns. Johnson averaged 12.4 points as a junior and 16.9 points as a senior and scored 143 3-pointers as a Tar Heel.

Another transfer who had an impact on the program but wouldn’t compare to Manek was Cincinnati coach Wes Miller, who was a solid contributor for three seasons after transferring from James Madison.

Makhtar N’Daiye played two seasons in the late-1990s after transferring from Michigan, scoring 280 points in 71 games.

One-year transfers who had minimal impacts were forward Justin Knox (who averaged 4.6 points in 2010–11 after three seasons at Alabama), forward Justin Pierce (who averaged 5.0 points in 2019–20 after three seasons at William & Mary) and guard Christian Keeling (who averaged 6.4 points in 2019–20 after three seasons at Charleston Southern.)

Justin McKoy, of course, transferred to Carolina before last season after playing two seasons at Virginia. Dawson Garcia, who entered the transfer portal last week, transferred from Marquette before leaving the team in January.

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Older fans, though, know that the standard will always be Bob McAdoo, known as Robert McAdoo when he led the 1971–72 Tar Heels to an ACC Tournament title as the MVP, the Final Four and a 26–5 record. He transferred from Vincennes Junior College, where he won an NJCAA national title in 1970.

McAdoo, whose son Ryan was a senior walk-on last season, averaged a double-double with 19.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game to lead the team in both categories. McAdoo scored an impressive 54 points during the 1972 Final Four, both against future ACC schools.

But there’s a catch.

McAdoo had 24 points and 15 rebounds in a national semifinal when Florida State knocked off UNC 79–74 behind the playmaking of 5–7 point guard Otto Petty. In those days, there was a consolation game. In that contest, the Tar Heels beat Louisville 105–91 behind McAdoo’s 30 points and 19 rebounds.

McAdoo went on to have stellar NBA career.

He was Rookie of the Year in 1973 and NBA MVP in 1975 with the Buffalo Braves (the franchise that now is the Los Angeles Clippers), was a five-time NBA All-Star, won NBA titles in 1982 and 1985 with the Los Angeles Lakers and earned a spot last year on the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.

There are big differences between the team that Manek joined and the one McAdoo, joined, though.

While Manek transferred to a Carolina team that was coming off two frustrating seasons. The Tar Heels also were making the transition from Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams to first-year head coach Hubert Davis and from one offensive style to the another.

McAdoo didn’t have to deal with those sorts of dynamics.

Under legendary coach Dean Smith, the Tar Heels were coming off an outstanding 1970–71 season in which they finished 26–6 with an ACC regular-season title and the NIT championship. Those were the days when only league champions went to the NCAA tournament and the NIT meant much more.

McAdoo’s Final Four team included future NBA players Bobby Jones, Dennis Wuycik and George Karl. Karl was voted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month.

Both McAdoo and Manek had huge impacts for one season. Manek’s team got one game further in the tournament but McAdoo still sets the standard for Carolina transfers.

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

2 Comments

  1. Jack Odom says:

    I think possibly the biggest mistake that Dean Smith made in all his coaching career, was to try to press Florida State in that semifinal game. Greg Samuels and Otto Petty simply took apart the full court press of the Tar Heels. I loved Dean Smith, but that was a huge mistake! Carolina should have been in the championship game against UCLA.

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  2. Tony Cortina says:

    Manek is definitely in the class with Bob McAdoo (my generation). Most will not know or remember that during that era, Freshmen were not eligible. Coach Smith would never recruit transfers because he felt his system required 2 years to learn and would leave 2 years to play. McAdoo is maybe the only transfer under Smith? The complicated system meant that McAdoo started his first and every game his only year before being a financial hardship entry to ABA as the second overall pick. Shortly after the draft Bob could be seen driving around Campus in a “fly” new Lincoln Mark IV.

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