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Jeff Eisenberg

Justin Knox gives North Carolina the third big man it lacked

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Incoming transfers putting up 6.3 points per game at middling SEC programs don't normally make a splash at North Carolina, but forgive the Tar Heels if they're a little more excited than usual about landing Justin Knox.

Will the 6-foot-9, 240-pound ex-Alabama forward draw any comparisons to Tyler Hansbrough or even Ed Davis next season? Probably not. But will he help make up for the unexpected departure of the Wear Twins by giving the Tar Heels a legitimate third big man? Absolutely.

Knox chose North Carolina over Georgia Tech on Monday night after Alabama controversially denied to release him to nearby Alabama-Birmingham because of allegations of tampering. The senior-to-be is on pace to graduate from Alabama this summer, meaning he should be eligible to play immediately at North Carolina next season if he chooses a degree program that Alabama does not offer.

The imminent arrival of Knox is a good fit for North Carolina after the transfer of David and Travis Wear earlier this month left Coach Roy Williams with only Tyler Zeller and John Henson as big men on his roster next season. Williams initially expressed skepticism that the Tar Heels would be able to land a quality replacement so late in the recruiting game, getting a senior capable of playing immediately no less.

Knox, who averaged 19.8 minutes per game and started 17 times last season for the Crimson Tide, provides more experience and interior muscle than either of the Wears, though his offensive game isn't nearly as versatile or well-developed. More importantly, his presence ensures that top recruit Harrison Barnes can play mostly on the wing and doesn't have to provide many backup minutes at power forward.

In ideal circumstances, North Carolina would surely like a fourth big man in case of injury, but the Tar Heels have to feel better about next season with Knox in the fold.

They landed an experienced, defensive-minded big man who's not just a warm practice body. And they only had to make a one-year scholarship commitment to do it.

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