North Carolina's Zack Gahagan (Aaron Fitt)


Fall Report: North Carolina

Fall Report

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Sometimes the draft taketh away, and leaves a program in a lurch. That happened to North Carolina in 2014, when it lost six recruits in the top two rounds of the draft — attrition that surely played a significant part in UNC missing back-to-back regionals in 2015 and ’16.

But sometimes the draft giveth unexpectedly. That’s what happened this year, when UNC got talented draft-eligible sophomores Cody Roberts and Kyle Datres plus junior Zack Gahagan back to campus for another year. None of them had the kind of seasons they expected last year (neither Roberts nor Gahagan played the season at 100 percent health), but they’re all legitimate pro prospects, and heading into the spring it was easy to envision all of them playing their way into the top five rounds and signing pro contracts in 2017.

“Two years out, you’re looking at that scenario — well, we could lose those three guys,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “That’s why we have five (junior-college) transfers; we’ve never had that many draft-eligible sophomores, so you have to protect yourself. When they do come back, you’re thrilled, and you’ve got those (juco) guys in, so it’s made for a lot of competition.”

The return of Roberts, Datres and Gahagan changes the complexion of North Carolina’s club heading into 2018. The Tar Heels knew they’d be loaded on the mound, but now they’re also deep and versatile in the lineup, with an experienced core of veterans capable of putting up big numbers.

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