Big Recruiting Weekend for North Carolina Basketball
Friday night kicks off the unofficial start to the UNC basketball season, when the Smith Center will host the annual Late Night with Roy event. Hosted several weeks earlier than usual, the basketball celebration and recruiting event was scheduled to purposely to coincide with the weekend the Clemson football team came to town to take on the Tar Heels. While the football game has the potential to turn ugly for a struggling Tar Heel team, this weekend is all about basketball. Not only will Late Night with Roy take place tomorrow night, but it will host the highest rated group of recruits in its 16-year history.
With already two five-star recruits committed to Carolina for the 2020 season, this looks to be the most promising class of incoming recruits in a long time. Both five stars are big men, who will come in and play the four and five positions. Walker Kessler, who committed this past Sunday, is a smooth 7-footer who can shoot from any range, has an array of post moves, and likes to run the floor. The other 5-star is Day’Ron Sharpe, a 6’10” forward who dominates the paint with his physicality, and has been committed to the program for a year. But the exciting thing is that even with two five-stars, the 2020 recruiting is far from over. And there’s a good chance this weekend in Chapel Hill will play a big part in the process.
Let’s go through some of the big-time prospects who will be in Chapel Hill this weekend and discuss their chances of wearing Carolina blue a year from now. Day’Ron Sharpe will be attending Late Night again this year, but since he’s already committed to the program, his main focus will be on recruiting others to join him. He should start with his Montverde High School teammate Cade Cunningham. Cunningham is the #1 combo-guard and #2 overall prospect in the 2020 class, and will make an immediate impact wherever he ends up. Just this week, he has narrowed his list to two schools: North Carolina and Oklahoma State (where his brother was hired as an assistant coach this summer). He said he plans to make a decision within the next week. Having two big men already committed, Cunningham would be a nice addition to the recruiting class as an athletic guard. It’s tough to tell whether he will want to play for his brother at Oklahoma State or come to Chapel Hill, but something tells me since he wants to announce within the next week, several days after Kessler committed and scholarships are going quick with others interested, he will end up at Carolina.
Next is Ziaire Williams. His recruitment is very interesting because he is from just outside of Los Angeles, but will be making his third visit to the UNC campus (2nd official). Many experts see him staying out west to play his collegiate basketball, but all seem to agree that if he does stray far from home, Carolina will be the place he winds up. Just the fact that he is making his 3rd visit to Chapel Hill shows how serious his interest level is. Williams would make an immediate impact for the Tar Heels as well, as a 6’7” wing who has been compared to Justin Jackson by UNC coaches. With his size and athleticism, Williams is very versatile and can easily play multiple positions. As for his recruitment, I think if Williams chooses to commit to Carolina, he will do so in the next week, perhaps as early as the end of this weekend. After three visits, he has to know if UNC is a place worth leaving the West Coast for and also recognize the fact that the program only has so many scholarships to give out. If he is serious about coming to Carolina, like his three visits conclude he is, then he will want to make a decision sooner rather than later. I believe he ends up a Tar Heel also.
Greg Brown, the five-star power forward from Austin, Texas, will also be in the building on Friday night. This won’t be his first visit to Chapel Hill either, as he witnessed the Tar Heels beat Duke at the Smith Center this winter. While it was reported that he and his father both left from that visit very impressed with the program, Brown’s chances of suiting up with the Tar Heels next fall seem very slim. In fact, 247 Sport’s crystal ball has him a 100% chance to stay in his hometown and attend the University of Texas. That seems logical and it makes sense given that contact between him and UNC has dwindled over the last several months. And his plans for announcing are to wait until next spring, which is a big chance to take if he really wanted to come to Carolina and get one of the remaining scholarships before they’re gone. But the Heels must still be on his radar if he’s making his 2nd unofficial visit this weekend, which means his family is paying for it. You never know.
There will be others in the building tomorrow night as well to take in Late Night with Roy, including the #3 overall player in the 2021 class, Paolo Banchero from Seattle, Washington. Banchero has already been offered a scholarship by the Tar Heels and has them listed in his final-10. We likely won’t hear a decision from him anytime soon, but it is a good sign that he has enough mutual interest to come and check out the campus.
As a Tar Heel fan, it’s exciting to see the program start to win some of these recruiting battles after losing out on many of them for the last decade. While they have gotten very good players to come in, they’ve missed out on a lot of the top-tier talent. It seems as if the tables are finally starting to turn and the North Carolina basketball program is getting back to the level it once was. Now it will be very interesting to see how Roy Williams handles the top-tier, freshman talent that is beginning to come in after being very successful with four-star players who tended to stay three or four years.