November 8, 2021
UNC top recruit Teonni Key to miss 2021-22 season
Teonni Key and Ariel Young both suffered ACL tears this preseason and will miss the Tar Heels' 2021-22 campaign
Courtney Banghart has raved about her prized recruit often this offseason.
At podiums, during Zooms – really, whenever she got the chance – North Carolina’s head coach was talking about just how good Teonni Key is and what she could become.
“Teonni Key is a huge part of our team,” Banghart said at the ACC Tip-Off event in Charlotte. “Teonni Key is a pro. She could be a No. 1 draft pick. That kid is so good. She can score on the low block, she’s got three-point range. She’s excellent.”
And just last week, Banghart added: “She’s really long, really mobile. She’s been starting at the four spot four us and creating a lot of havoc offensively and defensively. She’s kind of a guard in a post body actually, in terms of her skillset. She sort of reminds me of Bella Alarie… The kid is really committed and she doesn’t back down. She wants to be the No. 1 draft pick.”
Key, the nation’s ninth-best recruit in the 2021 class, was expected to play a big role for the Tar Heels as a freshman. She was named to the preseason Newcomer Watch List, and many saw her as the favorite to win the conference’s Freshman of the Year award.
But everyone will have to wait a year, at least, to see if Key can live up to the enormous potential and hype placed on her.
UNC announced in a release on Monday that Key and redshirt junior Ariel Young will miss the 2021-22 season. Both players suffered ACL tears recently.
“I’m absolutely heartbroken for both Ariel and Teonni, two very important pieces of our team’s puzzle,” Banghart said in a statement. “Both of these athletes have such a genuine love for the game and this program, and both have become huge parts of this team… It’s also undoubtedly a huge hit for our team.”
Banghart said that both players will take redshirts this season.
Key was projected to start at power forward for the Tar Heels this season. A versatile 6’4 wing, she can play inside and out.
She was the top player in UNC’s 2021 recruiting class that was rated as the third-best in the nation by ESPN. That class also includes Kayla McPherson, Morasha Wiggins and Destiny Adams. A McDonald’s All-American from nearby Cary, N.C., Key was the lone North Carolina native in the class for UNC. Key signed with UNC over countless offers from top programs around the nation, including UConn, Maryland, South Carolina, N.C. State, Georgia and Notre Dame.
According to the release, Key injured her right knee during UNC’s closed scrimmage against No. 1 South Carolina near the end of October.
“She came in as a top 10 ranked player. I think she’s even better than that. She’s even better than I thought,” Banghart said of Key last week. “She’s impactful. She’s a two-way player for us. She can rebound in traffic, and she can defend, she can switch out and guard guards. The ACC is really going to enjoy her over the course of her career.”
Young joined UNC last season after spending her freshman year at Michigan. The guard from Tallahassee, Florida featured in all 24 games for the Tar Heels last season, averaging 2.4 points per game. Young injured her left knee in a practice early in the preseason.
Key’s injury particularly leaves UNC thin in the post position. There are just three players on the Tar Heels’ roster listed at 6’3 or taller. The Tar Heels might have to play small and fast this season to have success. Fans will get their first look at UNC on Tuesday when they host North Carolina A&T at 4:30 p.m. EST at Carmichael Arena.