CHAPEL HILL — During two seasons of college basketball together at Oklahoma, Brady Manek only caught glimpses of the triple-double potential and all-around arsenal Alondes Williams suddenly is putting on full display with Wake Forest.
But as for the explosiveness that has continued to make Williams a high-rising finisher and must-see dunker, Manek, the North Carolina forward, banked up plenty of preview material before they arrived in the Atlantic Coast Conference as graduate transfers.
“When he would jump up and cock it back towards his ankles and throw it down,” Manek said Friday, enjoying recalling a go-to memory, “that’s the Alondes you remember. In transition, he’s jumping up with it tucked behind his ankles. And yeah, it’s impressive. I haven’t seen a dunker like that in a long time.”
The Big 12 Conference transplants and former teammates will be reunited when North Carolina (12-5 overall, 4-2 ACC) visits in-state rival Wake Forest (15-4, 5-3) on Saturday night at Joel Coliseum.
While the 6-foot-9 Manek (12.4 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game) has fit his billing as a capable shooter and dependable rebounder since joining the Tar Heels — he left Oklahoma ranked fifth in 3-pointers in school history, and the only Sooners player ever to compile 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 made 3s and 100 blocked shots — the 6-5 Williams has emerged as a remarkable surprise for the much-improved Demon Deacons.
He leads the ACC in scoring (20.3 points per game) and assists (5.2 per game), rates fourth in the league in field goal percentage (54.5 percent), and checks in among the top 15 rebounders in the conference (6.8 per game). All of this comprehensive production after he averaged 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists across 55 career games at Oklahoma.
Williams’ journey from Oklahoma role player to Wake Forest breakout star has unfolded as one of the success stories of the NCAA transfer portal. He possesses the skill and the bounce to both throw and catch a lob pass for a dunk, versatility at high velocity for the Demon Deacons and second-year coach Steve Forbes.
“I feel like it was a really good fit for him,” Manek said. “One of those places that fits his style of play. They want to get out and go, they want to score points, they want to pressure the ball. They just want to play hard. I think that fits his game play. He’s a great player, he’s very athletic. He’s a team player. He gets out and runs, dunks. He does it all.”
Manek was a four-year starter at Oklahoma. When Williams joined the Sooners after a junior college stop in Illinois, they became pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop partners on the wing at times, with Manek screening and Williams creating.
Williams never surpassed 15 points in any game, though. Guards such as eventual NBA player Austin Reaves (who’s with the Los Angeles Lakers), De’Vion Harmon (who transferred to Oregon), Umoja Gibson and Elijah Harkless were featured more in Oklahoma’s system under former coach Lon Kruger, who retired three days after last season concluded for the Sooners with a loss to No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament.
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This season at Wake Forest, Williams already has delivered nine 20-point games, topped by three 30-point performances. Last month, he supplied a triple-double of 16 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists against USC Upstate — the Demon Deacons’ first triple-double since Tim Duncan accomplished the feat in 1996 — and followed that by pouring in 36 points on VMI and 34 points on Charlotte in back-to-back victories that followed.
Williams is coming off 19 points, nine assists (one shy of a season high) and seven rebounds in Wake Forest’s defeat of Georgia Tech on Wednesday night. Manek said the playmaking and distributing Williams is delivering has grabbed his attention.
“I would say his passing at Wake has definitely surprised me,” Manek said. “You’d see flashes of it, but he really wasn’t at that guard position for Oklahoma. He’s kind of got that role at Wake and he’s stepped up and turned into an all-around team player.”
Manek watched Wake Forest’s loss to Duke on television 10 days ago, and has tuned in for other Demon Deacons games when his schedule has allowed. He stays connected with Williams and other friends through group messaging. They’re both part of devotional text group chats led by former Oklahoma assistant coach Jim Molinari, who’s now at Boston College.
Manek said he’s looking forward to Saturday night, and being on the same court again with Williams.
“It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “He’s a really good person off the floor. I think it’s going to be fun to see him again and just see how he’s playing. It’s just really exciting.”
But he recognizes the challenge of trying to combat Williams, and the Tar Heels were blasted by Miami on Tuesday night, their worst ACC loss in 10 years.
“We’ve got to play hard,” Manek said. “One of the biggest things for us is just playing hard. I feel like we get away from that every now and then, and we’ve got to show up and play hard. He’s going to want to be ready to go. Alondes is getting to play against North Carolina, me and him are getting to play against each other. He’s going to be ready to go and he’s a really big threat on their team right now, and we need to be able to contain him and just play hard against him.”
Who: North Carolina (12-5, 4-2) at Wake Forest (15-4, 5-3)
When: 8 p.m. Saturday (ACC Network)
Where: Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem
Series: North Carolina leads 163-67, including 55-32 on the road and 15-11 at Joel Coliseum. The Tar Heels have won the last two meetings, and eight of the previous nine games between the teams.
Up next: North Carolina plays host to Virginia Tech on Monday night in Chapel Hill, a rescheduled game after the Dec. 29 meeting between the teams was postponed due to COVID issues with the Hokies
Adam Smith is a sports reporter for the Burlington Times-News and USA TODAY Network. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or @adam_smithTN on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on Times-News: UNC basketball: Brady Manek saw Alondes Williams’ potential for Wake