The North Carolina Tar Heels have an excellent recruiting class on their hands this year. It’s going to be a highly-touted group. Let me repeat: highly touted group. The current four-man class, ranked in the top five, is the kind of group just about any high-major program would crave to sign. It’s also a class whose sum is greater than its individual parts.
North Carolina signs elite recruiting classes almost every season. That being said -- no class, no matter the ranking -- is identical. Some classes are rated high because they contain superstars while others attain a high rating because of their collection of players. This current class reminds me a lot of UNC’s 2009 class which was highlighted by John Henson and backed up by Leslie McDonald, Dexter Strickland and the now departed David and Travis Wear. Despite the rating of the current group (No. 2 in our rankings), expectations need to be tempered because there isn’t a Harrison Barnes or a James Michael McAdoo to carry the superstar load. In 2009, not even Henson was ready to step into this kind of role.
Marcus Paige (Marion, Iowa/Linn-Marr) is in my opinion, the top senior high school point guard. He’s the guy I’d want running my team. He’s a better scorer at the same stage when compared to Kendall Marshall, but not as good a passer. He’s the Tar Heels best recruit in terms of readiness to play and consistency. Brice Johnson (Edisto, S.C./Edisto) is the Henson of the group. He’s the top prospect but will need time to develop; his ceiling is highest. J.P. Tokoto (Menomonee Falls, Wisc./Menomomee Falls) and Joel James (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Dwyer) are very good supporting recruits; neither has reached their ceiling so there’s room to grow.
What’s my point? UNC's class is very strong and right now they are among the top classes in the country but don't be surprised if the Tar Heels slip in the rankings. Based on our mathematical formula (not quite as bad as the BCS, but still in depth) and some back-and-forth dialogue between the scouts, we come up with our rankings and adjust accordingly. Right now, coach Roy Williams has a good class with nice players but it’s not a game-changing enough group. In my opinion, that ranking doesn’t accurately reflect the expectations I’d have for this crop of players.
This collection of players is going to augment UNC’s roster and there should be a pro or two out of the group, but they’ll need time and the assistance of other players in the program and future classes to create championship expectations.
New July format has me worried
I’m not the type that is opposed to change. In fact, the NCAA had to change up the recruiting calendar and stream line some NCAA rules and regulations. The moves that were made last week -- texting, letting coaches out in April, allowing juniors to take official visits -- appear to be well intentioned and many are excited to take them for a test drive. Personally, the July ruling creating a series of three, four-day open periods, has me nervous.
July is a significant work month for myself and our staff. My goal is to see as many players as I possibly can so I don’t get surprised and miss out on seeing guys with my own eyes. There’s a measure of pride that accompanies July. I spend a lot of time planning out my days so that I can max out the number of players I can see. Watching Shabazz Muhammad play 25 times is not nearly as important as making sure I see unfamiliar faces like Grant Verhoeven (Visalia, Calif./Central Valley Christian), Connor Lammert (San Antonio, Tex./Winston Churchill) or Josh Scott (Monument, Colo./Lewis Palmer). These guys are often tucked away on AAU teams that aren’t as high profile and you might only get one or two looks at them. Still, that quick look is important.
My concern is that there are going to be so many events trying to get packed into the framework of the new July calendar that my number of actual workdays gets trimmed. Frankly speaking, I need as many work days in July as possible to do my job. Reducing the period by eight days is a significant concern as an evaluator. I’m nervous because doing my job might have gotten a lot more difficult. Here’s to hoping that there are still some good events floating around outside of the open periods where I can sit down and see a slew of players. The situation of evaluators isn’t a concern to the NCAA or college coaches but I’m thinking my job just got a whole lot more difficult by shortening the period and cramming all these events into tighter windows.
Should T.J. Warren (Durham, N.C./Brewster Academy) select NC State as expected on Wednesday, it would mean Mark Gottfried landed his third ESPNU 100 player from North Carolina in his first year. During the Sidney Lowe Era, the Pack landed a grand total of two in-state Top 100 players. The first year for Gottfried couldn’t have gone better.
Amile Jefferson (Philadelphia, Pa./Friends Central) is visiting NC State this weekend. Jefferson told me he’s still legitimately looking at seven schools: Ohio State, UConn, Villanova, Kentucky, NC State, Stanford and maybe Maryland. Jefferson said he would have taken advantage of the new NCAA rule allowing juniors to take official visits if the option existed for him. “I didn’t take my first unofficial visit until this summer,” Jefferson said. “Everyone says you have time but I think you should start visiting after your sophomore year.”