UNC Basketball Recruiting: Carolina's Chances at Landing Its Top 6 Prospects
With the addition of center Kennedy Meeks a week and a half ago, North Carolina's 2013 class is all but finished, and the focus is quickly shifting to its 2014 prospects.
Andrew Wiggins, the top player in the country who needs no introduction, is the lone recruit left on UNC's 2013 target list.
But his decision won't come until the spring.
There are currently six scholarship-offered players Roy Williams is pursuing in the 2014 class.
Of these players, some have displayed a convincing interest in North Carolina, others seem to have interest elsewhere or are viewing everyone on an equal playing field with no discernible favorite(s).
The following slides will help distinguish which prospects fall into which of those three categories and the chances Carolina has of landing them.
(This list is not a scouting report. It's a projection of where Carolina likely ranks in these recruits' interest levels.)
No. 4-Ranked PG: Joel Berry
UNC's chances: Strong
To give Carolina fans a reference, 6'1", 180-pound Joel Berry is somewhat of a Raymond Felton-Kendall Marshall hybrid point guard.
He won Mr. Basketball in Florida his sophomore and junior years and is the only sophomore in the state's history to win the award.
And all it takes is following Berry on Twitter to see how highly he thinks of Carolina.
Out of all of his followers who tweet him in a vein attempt to "recruit him" to their favorite school, the tweets luring him to UNC are retweeted by Berry far more than any other.
Of course, this can only be taken for what it's worth. But Berry also said in a Scout.com article (subscription required) the day Williams offered him that it was the scholarship he had been waiting for.
"I was very, very excited. It was just that all the hard work is finally paying off. I've been waiting for that offer and a lot of other offers, but that's one I was really waiting for. That's a high major school and high major basketball. Every kid wants to get an offer from UNC."
To put it simply: Joel Berry would thrive in Roy WIlliams' system. But the commitment of Nate Britt from the 2013 class may have Berry concerned about what his role would be within the team.
But from what I've seen of Berry, I can say confidently that it wouldn't be Britt he would be battling for minutes. It would be starter Marcus Paige.
My prediction: UNC.
No. 2-Ranked SF: Justise Winslow
UNC's chances: Decent.
Where we've heard about the triple threat position in basketball, Justise Winslow is the type of player who is a triple threat by the positions he's able to play.
The 6'6", 212-pound SF is capable of playing PG, SG and SF with his supreme athleticism and basketball IQ. He's labeled by coaches as a "point forward" who "does everything well."
Upon receiving the offer, Winslow spoke highly (subscription required) of both UNC and its offense.
"I was happy to pick up the offer from a great program like that...The tempo under Kendall Marshall was really good; he always found the open shooters," Winslow said. "It seems like they always have point guards who can do that. They feed the post and really get out in transition, which is something I really like."
Winslow is entertaining a number of offers, including Arizona, Duke, UCLA and plenty of schools from his home state of Texas, ranging from Texas A&M to Houston.
He has taken unofficials to Arizona, Texas A&M and most recently UCLA.
My prediction: This is one of those not as clear-cut interest levels. I think it will come down to Arizona, North Carolina, Duke or one of the upper-level programs in Texas.
His recruiting could get really interesting, though. You'll find out why in subsequent slides.
No. 1-Ranked PG: Tyus Jones
UNC's chances: Minimal.
But as you read through the article, you notice something different about Tyus Jones.
Even as the top-ranked point guard, he says that "playing to go pro after one year" isn't his mindset, nor is playing with an "all-star lineup."
He places a top—and convincing—priority on academics and is looking for the system that is his best fit, which is one where the point guard has a lot of freedom.
Coach K has recruited Jones hard and seems to be the frontrunner to land him.
In their conversations, Coach K has recalled to Jones how well Kyrie Irving played in his system. Albeit for only eight games, Irving and Jones have eerily similar skill sets and play styles.
Duke didn't place much emphasis on any PGs from the 2013 class, something that Jones says (subscription required) lets him know that they're "all in" on him.
UNC, however, would likely get a commitment from Joel Berry (in my opinion) before Jones commits to his school of choice, leaving no room for him anyway.
Even with a preference of playing alongside Winslow and Okafor, it doesn't appear to be a deciding factor for Jones.
When it's all said and done, he will pick the program that he's most comfortable with.
The biggest downside of Jones potentially signing with Duke isn't just that he would sign with Duke, but that UNC could also lose Winslow to Duke if they decide to play together.
My prediction: Duke.
No. 2-Ranked SG Theo Pinson
UNC's chances: Good.
Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor aren't the only ones who have mentioned playing together.
North Carolina native Theo Pinson is in that mix too.
Jones, Okafor and Pinson all recently concluded a round trip of Duke and North Carolina's campuses.
The 6"5', 181-pound Pinson said (subscription required) the trip together strengthened their already close bond and increased the chances of them playing together in college.
“I think we got a little bit more serious when they came down here last weekend,” said Pinson. “We saw how crazy and how cool it would be if we played together. We get along so well on the court. All three of us just want to win.”
If Duke and North Carolina are leading in those three's interests, and if the three are serious about playing together, it can't be ignored that Duke has offered Okafor but UNC hasn't.
He does have a strong relationship with Roy Williams, though. He visited Williams during his recovery after surgery in October and is also close with UNC assistant Hubert Davis.
His athleticism would make him a great fit in Williams' run-and-gun offense, and he'd be a welcomed addition on the defensive side of the ball too.
All of this would be easier to forecast if the three weren't so interested in ending up at the same school.
Regardless, I think Pinson's decision will come down to one of two schools.
My prediction: Duke/North Carolina
No. 4-Ranked SF Justin Jackson
UNC's chances: Strong.
The 6"7', 175-pound wing attended Late Night With Roy and was even able to catch the following morning's practice and meet the team before he headed out.
But by no means is Carolina a lock for Jackson.
There are other premier schools pursuing him, and a number of them, such as Arizona and Baylor, have an equally good chance of securing his commitment.
Ohio State is also in the running for Jackson.
He spent a number of years living in the Cincinnati area and speaks highly of the OSU coaching staff and points to (subscription required) how long the Buckeyes have been recruiting him.
Jackson said that overall he is "wide open" and wants to make sure he gives every school a fair chance.
One of the strategies he's using to narrow down his list (about 15 schools are recruiting him) is determining where he may not be a good fit.
Fortunately, with Jackson's polished shooting touch and ability to run the floor, Carolina would be a good one.
With three other small forwards on Roy's radar, their decisions could factor into where Jackson ends up, depending on who commits where and when. And vice versa.
My prediction: This one is really up in the air with so many schools being involved. But I would predict it will come down to Arizona and North Carolina.
No. 1-Ranked SF Andrew Wiggins
UNC's chances: Minimal
For a large part of his recruitment, Andrew Wiggins was only really chased by three schools: Florida State, Kentucky and North Carolina.
Recently, he opened his recruitment up (subscription required) and said he wanted to hear from more schools.
That doesn't mean he lost interest in those original programs, but that he wants to make sure he chooses the right one.
Although most feel Wiggins is a lock for Kentucky, I disagree.
And so would Wiggins (subscription required).
“They either think that because Kentucky always gets the best players or Florida State because my parents went there,” Wiggins told Scout.com. “But my options are still wide open,” he added. “People think they can dictate or know where I’m going, but they might be in for a surprise.”
“Every school is the same to me right now,” Wiggins said. “I don’t have any favorites. Even if a new school wanted to recruit me they can. My options are wide open, but a lot of schools aren’t recruiting me because of what they think.”
There have been reports that he's said he wants to play against the best talent to prove he's the best.
It has nothing to do with arrogance; just a product of his competitive nature.
“I just try to kill whoever is guarding me," Wiggins said. "I don't practice to play against people in high school like Julius Randle and Jabari Parker. I practice to play against guys in the NBA because I want to be better than them. I practice to beat the best player in the world because I want to be the best player in the world."
I don't think he'll pick Carolina because even though Roy Williams gets out in transition, he probably knows most of the offense runs through the bigs and there's little to no isolation game—the area where Wiggins excels.
Just ask Harrison Barnes about being the top player in high school then ending up the third option both years he was at Carolina.
That, again, isn't a slide on Wiggins or to say he's a selfish player. He isn't in the slightest.
I just don't think Wiggins' game really translates into Williams' offense as well as it would at a Kentucky or a Kansas.
But I don't think he'll wind up at either of those two, either.
My prediction: Florida State.
Andrew Wiggins doesn't need a top program, coach or team for him to dominate college basketball. He'll do that no matter where he goes.
The 2013-14 Naismith Player of the Year award is his to lose, and he'll be the definitive No. 1 NBA Draft pick.
His lifelong friend and current teammate, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, committed to FSU, and both of their fathers played ball for the Seminoles.
That's a tough act to follow, even for John Calipari.
However, if he were to commit to Kentucky, it would likely post an undefeated record en route to its ninth championship.
But who would Wiggins have had to go through to earn it?
That's what I think, more than anything, will keep Wiggins from Kentucky.
He wants to earn it by beating the best, not by playing with it.