North Carolina Basketball: Tar Heels' Must-Get Recruits for 2013-14
As good as the coming season looks for the North Carolina Tar Heels, the 2013-14 season has the potential to be even better—and there is nothing wrong with looking ahead.
Last month, I went over UNC's scholarship offers for 2013, and there are a lot of solid players on that list. Nate Britt and Isaiah Hicks have verbally committed to Chapel Hill, and there could be anywhere from one to four open slots left.
Who will take those slots is a mystery—and will likely stay that way for a while.
I can't predict the future (though I tirelessly try), but what I can do is break down my top candidates for those slots. In no way do these picks mean they are leaning toward Carolina. They are simply who I would like to see fill the remaining needs on the roster.
Before we get into my top picks, let's take a look at the list of returning scholarship players.
As it stands now, the Tar Heels should have 10-12 scholarship players heading into the 2013-14 season.
That is assuming James Michael McAdoo leaves for the NBA, as he had a tough time with his decision this year. Considering NBA teams wanted him off the potential he showed in his freshman campaign, they will probably still be lobbying for him—barring a train wreck of a season.
That is also assuming P.J. Hairston stays for at least another year. No matter the year he has in 2012-13, my opinion is he should definitely stay for at least 2013. However, there was rumor that he was 50/50 on entering the 2012 NBA Draft—really.
Gardner-Webb transfer Luke Davis and sophomore Jackson Simmons will both be on scholarship for the 2012-13 season. However, they are “preferred walk-ons,” meaning their scholarships are renewed on a yearly basis and could be given up for another player. With the arrival of Nate Britt in 2013, Davis will likely lose his, while Simmons will lose his if there is a fifth commit.
My final assumption is that Nate Britt and Isaiah Hicks don't pull out of their verbal commitment. Until they sign the papers, nothing is set in stone. But I do feel these two young men are committed to being in Chapel Hill.
That said, here is the list of my predicted scholarship players for 2013-14:
PG: Marcus Paige, Sophomore
PG: Nate Britt, Freshman
SG: Leslie McDonald, Redshirt Senior
SG/SF: Reggie Bullock, Senior
SG/SF: P.J. Hairston, Junior
SF: J.P. Tokoto, Sophomore
PF: Isaiah Hicks, Freshman
PF/C: Brice Johnson, Sophomore
C: Desmond Hubert, Junior
C: Joel James, Sophomore
SF: Jabari Parker
I realize, just over a month ago, I was saying Troy Williams was the small forward the Tar Heels should pursue the hardest. My reasoning was that he was down to two schools, and much closer to making a decision than Jabari Parker. Now that he backed out of “the decision” and expanded his list, I have to go with the better player.
That player is Jabari Parker.
Parker is listed as the top small forward in the 2013 class, by Scout.com—and with good reason. When it comes to development, nobody at the position is more ready for college basketball than him.
Especially at the 3, a post game is usually the last thing a high school player develops. Parker already has that, and will have his senior year to fine-tune that aspect of his game. The ability of a small forward to post up can make the difference between just being good or being great.
Another sign of his promising future, Parker doesn't shy away from contact. Two people defending the rim? No problem. He'll just posterize them, as you can see in the final clip of the video.
Parker plays with very high energy, popping in out of nowhere for blocks and steals, and taking it coast-to-coast—something we all know Roy Williams drools over. He excels on the dribble-drive and has a pretty good mid-range jumper. If he extends his game beyond the arc, he will become virtually impossible to defend.
Jabari Parker's game is impressive, to say the least. A superb athlete, Parker dominates just about every aspect of the game—and he still has a year to grow.
PF: Julius Randle
What is there not to like about the top-ranked power forward for 2013? If anyone has an answer for that, my ears are open to you. As I see it, Julius Randle's game is fully polished.
Randle plays with the size and power of a 4, but has the dribbles of a 3—something rarely seen from a high school junior at the position. On top of that, he is a very unselfish player and an excellent passer.
It seems as though he can take just about anyone off a dribble-drive, as far out as the top of the key. Like Parker, he doesn't shy away from contact—it almost seems he enjoys it. This makes him a force on the block, too.
The only area of his game that truly needs work is from the outside. He has trouble with consistency on his jumper, as he tends to be streaky. But he does show promise here.
Julius Randle is prepared to reign supreme in the college ranks. The only question is where he will go and when he will decide. It appears Randle is leaning heavily toward NC State, but admits his decision likely won't come before next spring.
At this time, the chances of Coach Williams landing this future star appear to be slim. But as long as Julius Randle remains an option, the pursuit shouldn't stop. He is the best player on UNC's list.
C/PF: Austin Nichols
Though he is only a 4-star, compared to the previous two top-ranked 5-stars, I see a lot of promise in the young Austin Nichols—and a little Tyler Zeller to boot.
While at a reported 6'9” and 210 pounds, he doesn't have the size of Zeller, but his game is very reminiscent of the latest ACC Player of the Year.
Austin Nichols has already developed a nice hook shot, has a pretty solid mid-range jumper, is consistent from the free-throw line and likes to run the floor. Oh, and he also wears the number 44 on his jersey.
Zeller got by with one post move, thanks in part to being 7'0”, but Nichols will have to expand on his post game to truly shine at the next level and beyond. However, he has a very solid game and continues to impress and draw offers off his performance in the summer leagues.
In my mind, Austin Nichols is the clear front-runner for North Carolina at the 5.
As I stated previously, my top picks for Carolina aren't necessarily sold on the program yet. Roy Williams may not be able to snag any of them, so the following players are my next picks for the open slots.
Troy Williams is still a fine prospect at the 3—he's just a little behind in development, compared to Jabari Parker. He also dropped from No. 6, all the way down to No. 42 on ESPNU's 2013 Top 100. Williams has a high ceiling and I love his potential, he just isn't refined yet.
Johnathan Williams is new to Carolina's list, as they just started showing interest in him this month. Not only is he another 5-star possibility, he can play the 3 or the 4—and play either very well. Players that can play multiple positions are invaluable at the college level. Having him would allow Coach Williams to adjust the lineup according to his commits and opponent match-ups.
Finally, there is Kennedy Meeks, who draws comparison to Sean May. He's a solid rebounder and has a nice touch on his shot. However, he is a big kid and isn't very active—making me leery of his potential. But he is the only other option at the 5 on UNC's list.
Though I'm not as fond of these players as the previous three, none of them would be bad options at all—especially with the fine crop of returning players for 2013-14.