Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Roy Williams just keeps getting it done on the recruiting trail. This season, the Hall of Famer will usher in three extremely talented freshmen, and each one is sure to impact the team from the jump.
Power forward Isaiah Hicks and center Kennedy Meeks were both selected to the McDonald's All-American team. Meeks also played in the Jordan Brand Classic. Point guard Nate Britt was left out of that mix, but that doesn't mean his talent wasn't worthy of that recognition.
When Britt committed to the Tar Heels in 2011, the 5'11" speedster from the nation's capital ranked No. 15 overall and No. 2 at the point in the 2013 ESPN 100. A pure point guard in its truest form, Britt facilitated his team's offense with sweet dimes, floaters with both hands and by burning everyone down the court in transition.
Then injuries sidelined the phenom in both his junior and senior seasons, slowing down his on-court performance and ultimately dropping him from the rankings.
But, as we have seen through the Blue-White scrimmage and one exhibition, Britt is every bit the point guard Coach Williams recruited in 2011. In 25 minutes against UNC-Pembroke, the freshman tallied six points, two rebounds, one block, five steals and, most importantly, six assists to just two turnovers.
Yes, it was against inferior competition, but consider the fact that the team had 17 assists and 23 turnovers. The kid is good.
It's going to be exciting to watch Nate Britt and Marcus Paige share the backcourt in 2013-14.
Kennedy Meeks also proved his worth in that game, despite a slow start. In just 13 minutes, the hoss from Charlotte, N.C., scored 11 points and hauled in six boards for the Tar Heels. He was also 3-of-3 from the free-throw line, which is a big relief considering the team's struggles last season—particularly from the post players.
What once appeared to be Joel James' job to lose, the center position has been dubbed a "50-50" battle between the two. He wouldn't be there if it wasn't for his dedication to Jonas Sahratian's strength and conditioning program.
When Meeks arrived on campus, he was a robust 317 pounds, and few pundits gave him a shot at earning major minutes in Roy Williams' high-octane system. In just a few months, he's managed to trim that frame to a shocking 281 and become more explosive as a result.
Whether he starts or not, Meeks will probably hit the floor for at least 10 minutes a game.
Finally, there is Isaiah Hicks, who probably has the highest ceiling and the most NBA potential of the three. Hicks is a springy, active post with well-above average handles for a freshman at his position.
He'll struggle a times with his slender frame (6'8", 220 pounds), but his athleticism and ball-handling will allow him to crash the boards and take it to the hole. We've gotten a taste of that through the preliminary games, even though his numbers weren't as impressive as the other two.
In 14 minutes against UNC-Pembroke, Hicks produced six points, six boards and one block. He was also 4-of-4 from the stripe, supporting the hope that UNC has better days ahead at the charity stripe.
Hicks will have a hard time getting off the bench with junior star James Michael McAdoo and up-and-coming sophomore Brice Johnson ahead of him. But don't be surprised if Isaiah Hicks earns the respect of Coach Williams while Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston are out.
This kid is going to find a way on the court. That's what 30-30 guys do.
This 2013 class may not be ballyhooed like the one coming in 2014, but there is nothing better than a good surprise. And Britt, Hicks and Meeks may have quite a few in store for us.