NCB On The Trail: North Carolina Tar Heels

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The opening day of the 2014 NBPA Top 100 not only brought out some of the nation’s top prospects in the 2015, 2016 and even 2017 classes, but some recruiting news as well.

Accusations of academic scandal have hit North Carolina once again. This time it is specific to the men’s basketball program.

While the plot has only thickened since the first “Outside the Lines” report, what many now want to know is whether there will be any tangible impact on the product Roy Williams and UNC will put on the floor.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesHow will the accusations of academic fraud impact Roy Williams' ability to recruit his 2015 class? It's probably still too early to tell.
The simple truth is we don’t know yet. Should this spark another investigation or the NCAA deem it necessary to get involved, there could certainly be repercussions. Otherwise, while it’s something that Williams will have to deal with on the recruiting front, it’s likely not an insurmountable obstacle.

You could also make the argument that North Carolina’s 2015 recruiting class is now even more important than ever, as the Tar Heels will look to silence those critics who may be whispering of their demise from the shadows.

On the surface there aren’t many pieces to replace, as Desmond Hubert is the only scholarship player in the senior class. They do have additional scholarships available, however, and that could be important should Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, or incoming freshman Justin Jackson play well enough next season to warrant an early jump to the NBA.

From the looks of its early recruiting, North Carolina appears to be focusing on 10 players with hopes of bringing in a three-man class.


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As the Class of 2016 ESPN 60 takes shape, there are indications that there are key players at every position who could be special. The star power is intriguing, and we are discovering more talent each weekend. We'll be keeping a close eye on this class throughout the summer.

Dennis Smith Jr., a prospect not many outside of North Carolina know about, has become a top-10 player and is the best point guard in the class. As a rising junior, his recent performances on the spring circuit have made some lasting impressions, and he still has plenty of room to grow. As a sophomore, Smith averaged 17 points and 9 assists per game. Simply put, he has impressive tools, instincts and basketball IQ at a young age. The future looks extremely bright for this young guard.


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After a long and detailed conversation about the nation’s best prospects, Ivan Rabb holds on to his No. 1 spot as we launch the new ESPN 100 for the Class of 2015.

Why he is No. 1: Many factors go into being tabbed the nation’s top prospect such as strong performance, consistent production and potential. At 6-foot-11 and 210 pounds, Rabb has all the physical markers to impact a game. Rabb has mobility and an enormous wing span (7-4). He utilizes those features along with speed and lateral quickness to protect the basket, outrun opponents and score the ball. It’s his efficiency that is impressive, as the majority of shots come inside the paint. After 16 games in the Elite Youth Basketball League, he had made more than 60 percent of his field-goal attempts, per GameChanger stats service.


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ESPN 60 guard Allonzo Trier made Nike EYBL history last weekend, becoming the first player to ever record 30 or more points in each game of a single session.

While the feat has never been accomplished before on the Nike circuit, ironically, Adidas had someone accomplish the very same thing on the same weekend when fellow ESPN 60 guard Jalen Adams finished with 30 or more points in all four of his games.

While Trier and Adams are similar in that they are two of the nation's best scoring guards in the 2015 class, they’re unique in the way they look to attack the defense.


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It’s been a busy month for the top high school seniors in America.

First, it was the McDonald’s All American Game, then the Nike Hoop Summit and finally last week’s Jordan Brand Classic.

While these all-star-style games are mostly about show and only rarely about competition, they also serve as the first real opportunity that NBA scouts have to evaluate these prospects.

With the vast majority of the NBA’s 30 franchises having a consistent presence at all three events (both games and practices), we spoke to front-office personnel from five different teams to see their first impressions of the top players in the ESPN 100.

Here’s what they had to say:


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North Carolina coach Roy Williams loses James Michael McAdoo to the NBA draft and Leslie McDonald to graduation. Between the two, that’s 24 points per game and a lot of game experience you can't replace, but you can try to help replenish what's returning. UNC's 2014 recruiting class finished the season ranked third in the nation with three players in the top 20 of the ESPN 100 – No. 8 Justin Jackson, No. 10 Theo Pinson and No. 17 Joel Berry. This class will be impactful both individually and as a collective unit. They all bring different elements to next year's team that will make the Tar Heels more talented and help UNC play better as a team. Jackson will score in a very efficient manner to help take the pressure off Marcus Paige, Pinson will be outstanding in the conversion game and from a defensive standpoint if he applies himself and Berry will be a good defender and lead guard who can finish drives and hand out assists. Berry will also lead by his work ethic in practice but in reality, all three of these guys are serious about the game and are high-quality people.

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The Jordan Brand Classic featured much of the nation’s top talent.

Obviously, a number of players operate at the same position. That said, each brings a different aspect at the spot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and break down how they are different and impactful.


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The Jordan Brand Classic was played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday.

This game is always filled with future NBA talent and usually has the No. 1 pick in a future NBA draft.

Twenty-two of the country's elite players went head to head for likely the last time before they meet again in college. There were so many impressive plays and highlights, so let's take a look at what we learned from the event.


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Roundtable: Jordan Brand Classic 

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It has been a busy few weeks for the top prospects in the ESPN 100.

It began at the beginning of the month when they arrived in Chicago for the McDonald's All American Game. Immediately after that game concluded, some players jumped on a red-eye to New York for the Dick's Sporting Goods High School National Tournament. Last week it was a trip to the West Coast for the Nike Hoop Summit in Oregon. This week, that string of all-star events gets a fitting culmination as the top players in the Class of 2015 return to New York for the Jordan Brand Classic.

Given what we've seen, not just in the past few weeks but in the past few years, is there anything left to learn? Here are a few players whom our Recruiting Nation staff will be watching during Friday's Jordan Brand Classic (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET):


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The Jordan Brand Classic features the best talent high school basketball has to offer. Here are some of the most intriguing potential matchups in this terrific annual event, which airs Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Tyus Jones (Duke) vs. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)

This matchup will be the battle for who can get the most assists. Both are terrific pass-first point guards who can play fast or slow. They can make open shots in order to keep the defense honest, and their decision-making on the offensive end of the floor is excellent, as well. Ulis can apply more heat on the ball defensively, while Jones is stronger and the better finisher in heavy traffic. It will be interesting to see who makes the fewest mistakes with the ball and who will win the assist category as Jones and Ulis push each other on both ends of the floor.


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Roundtable: ESPN 100 commit predictions 

April, 15, 2014
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The ESPN 100 has just three remaining uncommitted prospects, and the competition remains furious for their services.

Myles Turner, No. 2 in the ESPN 100, leads the way, followed by No. 94 Elijah Stewart, who was released from his letter of intent to Loyola Marymount following the firing of coach Max Good, and No. 98 Josh Cunningham.

Devonte Graham wasn’t ESPN 100 eligible by virtue of his post-graduate status, but there is no denying he is a wanted man after receiving his release from Appalachian State. He will take official visits to Kansas and North Carolina State while also considering Virginia, Virginia Tech, Xavier and Providence.

So where are these remaining four prospects headed? No one knows for sure just yet, but here are a few educated guesses:


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PORTLAND, Ore. -- In the 17th annual Nike Hoop Summit on Saturday, the USA team defeated the World team 84-73 for the first USA win since 2011. The USA squad featured a balanced attack as four players scored in double figures: Justise Winslow (Duke signee) led the USA team with 16 points, Jahlil Okafor (Duke) and Kelly Oubre (Kansas) each scored 14 points and Tyus Jones (Duke) added 13.

Let's take a look at what we learned from this year's Hoop Summit.


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.
When our final rankings came out the other day Elijah Stewart came in at No. 94.

Stewart can play, as he has a rangy frame and is a terrific jump-shooter. He’s an explosive athlete who can compete and perform in any conference. He loves to attack the rim in combination with his jumper, which makes him hard to guard. An area of improvement would be his ball handling, as he attacks with speed more than control.

UNC has inquired, as have USC, UCLA and many other programs.

If Tar Heels go after him hard, they will get a visit. His quick-trigger jumper is just what they need.
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Scouting the country each year I’ll not only see players’ skills, athletic ability and basketball IQ, but I’ll also witness their character along the way. This year’s class might not have any NBA superstars at the moment, but it will have difference-makers for the college game, both in the short term as well as those who will make a difference in time because of their character traits combined with their talent.

As we wrap up the Class of 2014, here are my five final thoughts:

1. The land of the giants

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
AP Photo/The Sun News/Charles SlateDuke center signee Jahlil Okafor finishes the season as the nation's top prospect.
When you look at the top of a class it's so rare to have three post players sitting in the top three spots. Jahlil Okafor, who held the top spot for much of the season, finishes the season as the nation’s top prospect. The center from Chicago is a dominating presence in the paint. A Duke signee, Okafor led his high school team to a 4A state championship and was named the McDonalds Morgan Wooten player of the year.

He is special because he scores down low in the paint with his back to the basket. His combination of size, touch and fluid footwork is too much for one defender and when he doesn’t score, he attracts a double-team, which gives his team an advantage. He operates with patience and poise and when he reads the double-team he will accurately pass out to the open man. Defensively he guards the post and is improving at ball-screen defense as he is a barrier to the rim for his team.

Myles Turner, the nation’s No. 2 prospect, challenged hard for the No. 1 position and shows a big upside. Turner, who is uncommitted, is an elite shot-blocker and scores baskets with a soft touch and range. Cliff Alexander is going to be an absolute difference-maker for Kansas with his ability to rebound, finish and block shots, and he does it in an aggressive manner. Trey Lyles is one of the most skilled post players in this group and his future teammate at Kentucky Karl Towns Jr. has franchise skill-to-size ratio. Thomas Welsh is a fundamentally sound big who will anchor the middle at UCLA.


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