The North Carolina Tar Heels didn't need the top-ranked class to consider their 2013 recruiting a success.
Sure, it would have been nice to have Jabari Parker or Julius Randle, but don't let numbers get in the way of your eyes.
Roy Williams managed to snatch up power forward Isaiah Hicks and point guard Nate Britt on the first day of the early signing period. Today, West Charlotte center Kennedy Meeks was added to that fine list, after announcing his commitment to UNC on ESPNU's National Signing Day Special.
Those are three fine players, with great heart and character—attributes that have been a staple in Chapel Hill. While their games may not be as advanced as Parker and Randle to this point, they are still really impressive players with extremely high ceilings.
They landed in the perfect program, with the right coach to make them successful at their positions. The Tar Heels' 2013 class is currently ranked No. 11 on ESPN Recruiting Nation (subscription required), but they could be as high as No. 5 after the re-rankings. I know that's a big jump for Meeks, but consider the fact John Calipari is hogging all the meat.
And that is without Andrew Wiggins, who is still in the open market. He likely won't commit until spring, but he currently has North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse, and Ohio State on his list.
So what do Meeks, Hicks and Britt bring to the game?
Kennedy Meeks is a big-bodied center, standing at 6'9", 275 pounds. His basketball IQ is tremendous, and his skill set is only expanding as his waistline shrinks.
Despite being a little slower than the players he guards, his excellent footwork and smarts keep him competitive on the defensive end. He doesn't have the great ups or length to be a big-time shot-blocker, but he has the presence and the body to gain a positional advantage on his opponents.
Meeks is still refining his post game, but he can shoot it with the best centers. He is considered deadly from as far out as 15 feet, and he has extended that range beyond the arc over the summer. He is also an excellent passer, with the vision to find the cutter or even start a break with a deep outlet pass. There is a lot of upside to Kennedy Meeks, and I'm glad he went with Carolina.
Assuming Joel James is the starter next season, UNC will hardly lose a step when Roy puts in Meeks. And if he wants to turn his NASCAR scheme into Destruction Derby, he can always put the two beasts on the floor together.
That's some scary stuff.
Speaking of pairing up players, he can always go athletic with Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks. At 6'8", 210 pounds, Hicks loses an inch to Johnson but has about 24 pounds on the current freshman. Aside from the slight differences in stature, these two play a relatively similar game.
That's good news, considering how impressive Johnson has been thus far.
As is the issue with most prep players, Hicks hasn't developed a complete post game to this point. His face-up game is excellent, however, and he has the speed and moves to explode past his opponent to the rim. That same athleticism and quick reaction time is what allows him to excel at shining glass and swatting shots.
Hicks has a smooth, mechanically sound stroke, so he has the potential to extend his range. In turn, becoming a more complete power forward. Next season he'll have his mirror image (Johnson) to help him along. And this is assuming James Michael McAdoo doesn't stay another year. I'll have to feel sorry for the competition if he stays another year with these guys.
Finally, there is Nate Britt, who will also be working behind a 2012 recruit in Marcus Paige. Unless Paige has a flop of a season, I have no reason not to consider him the incumbent starter in 2013-14.
Roy will find a way to get Britt in the game, though. Some may worry about the competition between the two for the starting job, but from what he told ESPN's Dave Telep, that isn't something he is concerned about:
The thing I look forward to the most is probably playing with Marcus Paige. I feel like us two in the backcourt together could be great. When Coach Williams was at Kansas he had Kirk Hinrich and two other point guards and that was one of his better years at Kansas.
In order to make that happen, Nate Britt will have to become a bigger threat from the outside to counter his lack of size. Standing at 6'1", 165 pounds, Britt and the equally slight Paige would make for an undersized backcourt.
The good news is that Nate Britt has the tools to become that complete threat. The lefty is a great shooter from inside the arc, but can be a little streaky from the outside. Like Paige, his body hinders his deep penetration at times, but he has a nice array of finishing moves to produce on offense. He can finish with both hands and has developed a nice floater.
In the passing game, Britt is also like Paige in that he doesn't take a lot of chances. He isn't that flashy guy like Ed Cota or the gambler like Kendall Marshall; he is smart with his decisions and doesn't make a lot of mistakes in that aspect of his game.
The most obvious difference between Carolina's latest point guards is speed. Paige can hold his own, but Britt is lighting fast and can head up breaks the way Ty Lawson did. He just won't be able to finish as strong as the stocky Lawson.
I'm not just blowing smoke here, folks. This is real. Put player and class rankings aside—this is an extremely gifted group of recruits Roy Williams has managed to put together, amongst the academic scandal and concerns with the coach's health.
It's pretty impressive, if you ask me, and I have no problem labeling this recruiting season a success for North Carolina. As excited as I am about this Carolina season, I'm even more excited about this team's potential in 2013-14.
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