North Carolina's 2014 recruiting season has been a work of art. The early verbal commitments of Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson have propelled the Tar Heels to the top of the class rankings, according to ESPN (subscription required).
If Roy Williams can find another scorer in the form of a shooting guard, this class has the potential to rank among the best he has assembled at UNC.
The competition will be quite stiff, however.
In 2006, Williams pulled in impact players Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Brandan Wright and Deon Thompson. Lawson, Ellington and Wright all ranked No. 1 at their respective positions (Scout.com). This was also a class that helped produce a title in 2009.
The only strike here is Wright left after just one season.
The next-best class has to be 2010, even though the group was unable to produce a title. Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall were all stars during their short stints in Chapel Hill.
Say what you will about Barnes not living up to expectations; the kid produced.
I also believe the 2012 and 2013 classes have much more potential than their rankings would indicate. It may take a year or two to really see what these guys can do, but they could easily end up on this list as well.
UNC's 2014 class rankings are far from astonishing in comparison to 2006 and 2010 on Scout.com, but it has them ranked obscenely low. The ESPN 100 seems to be more accurate in this case, as all three prospects land in the top 15.
Small forward Justin Jackson ranks as the highest of the three at No. 8, and that may have a bit to do with his scoring prowess. Berry (No. 14) and Pinson (No. 13) tend to take what is given to them, while Jackson just takes it.
His go-to shot is the floater, and with good reason. Nobody in the class does it better than him.
The floater is easily the toughest shot in the game of basketball. It's also the most lethal—especially when the guy dropping them is a long 6'8".
Point guard Joel Berry and small forward Theo Pinson are a little different. They can knock down shots when they need to, and both have improved their range over the last year. But they are always just looking for the best shot.
That also means dishing the rock to open teammates rather than putting up a low-percentage shot of their own.
Greed is simply not in their vocabulary.
Maturity is, however.
When it comes down to it, that's the most important thing to look for in a prep star. We've seen many highly-ranked recruits, showered with accolades, end up busts at the next level.
And I don't mean Barnes-type "busts." I mean real busts.
That happens because too much weight is placed on measurables rather than maturity and basketball IQ. Everyone is looking for the athletic freak of nature.
That isn't the 2014 class. Berry, Pinson and Jackson aren't the guys that will be regularly featured on the SportsCenter Top 10. But they are the guys that will pick up wins for their teams with smart play.
They'll also do it on the defensive end, where these three recruits are advanced beyond the usual high school standards. Nobody has to push these guys to play defense.
They're pretty good at it, too.
Jackson and Pinson are both listed as small forwards, but they have the quickness and length to guard anyone in the backcourt. Berry is a little short at 6'0", but he makes up for that with his lateral quickness and strength.
Simply put, these guys are a coach's dream.
Finding prospects with those attributes has been a staple of Roy Williams' recruiting. That's why he has been so successful.
As well as he has done thus far for 2014, there's a good chance he'll land one of the many shooting guards on the Tar Heels' radar. If he can cap off the class with a natural scorer at the 2, Williams will have produced a group that could knock the 2006 class from its throne.
It will probably take a title before we can reach that conclusion, but the future looks very promising in Chapel Hill.
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