CHAPEL HILL — Crazy.
That's the one word Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce continued to say on Wednesday inside the Smith Center during North Carolina's annual media day.
Seated in their Carolina-blue jerseys, the graduate transfers still couldn't quite believe they'll be suiting up for the Tar Heels this season.
"Man, I think this is crazy," said Keeling, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard that was an All-Big South Conference performer at Charleston Southern.
"It's crazy just to look back to where I came from. It's crazy where I'm at now, just look around and see different people that played on this court, played at this school. It's just an honor to put on that North Carolina jersey and I acknowledge it -- I honor it -- because they always play for what's on the front (of the jersey), not what's on the back. I think it's tremendous. I think it's awesome."
Pierce, who grew up in the Chicago area as a big fan of Michael Jordan, said he's amazed every time he walks into the Smith Center and looks up at the jerseys and banners hanging in the rafters.
"It's really crazy," said Pierce, who comes to Chapel Hill from William & Mary.
"It never gets old, it really doesn't. Every day it's something new here, something special. ... When I walked in on my visit, I saw all these jerseys and just the whole atmosphere of playing in front of 22,000. To walk out here for practice every day and Coach (Roy) Williams is out here, that stuff is crazy."
The duo will bring veteran leadership, scoring and rebounding to a UNC team that lost its top five scorers from last season. The additions of highly-touted freshmen Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot softened the blow, but Williams knew he needed to bring in more experience.
In his first 16 seasons as head coach of the Tar Heels, Williams has added only two graduate transfers -- Justin Knox and Cameron Johnson.
As for what made Keeling and Pierce the right fit, Williams chuckled before saying, "Need."
"We needed more guys," Williams continued.
"I think that we needed people on the perimeter. Didn't have as big a need up front. Christian gives you a little bit of scoring and he's got a tremendous flair, a very gregarious personality. He's Theo Pinson Jr. But I think the job they did with him at Charleston Southern, he's been coached very well, he understands how to play. He has never met a shot he didn't like so far but we'll see how that goes as we go down."
Keeling led the Bucs in scoring, rebounding and assists in each of the past two years, averaging 18.7 points and 6.9 rebounds last season. He also made 81 3-pointers and shot 38% from behind the arc.
Williams dished out similar praise to Pierce, particularly Pierce's prowess on the boards. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds for the Tribe in the Colonial Athletic Association.
"I think his quality he has that will be more beneficial to us than anything right now is his rebounding," Williams said.
"I think he averaged over eight rebounds a game for them last year. He's a sneaky kind of rebounder that goes in and gets his hands on a lot of balls. But there was a tremendous need for a couple more players playing on the perimeter."
Pierce can't wait to do his part to help the Tar Heels chase another championship.
"It's crazy how much your life can change in a year and I'm certainly glad I'm here," he said.
"I think it's the same with everybody. He (Williams) wants to come together as a team and do whatever it takes to help us win, whether that's playing hard, rebounding, scoring the ball, shooting the ball, basically just doing whatever it takes to help this team put another banner in the rafters. That's what my goal is this year: just to win a national championship. Whatever they need me to do, I'm going to do it."
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