Today marks the opening of the early signing period for college basketball's 2014 recruiting class. UNC has announced the signing of three players who will be in Chapel Hill next season.
Joel Berry, PG, 6-1, 185 lbs, Lake Highland(FL) Prep
Rankings: RSCI: 17th, Scout: 21st, Rivals: 25th, ESPN: 15th
Few point guards in the class possess Berry’s physical strength. He’s at his best in the lane, where he uses that strength to muscle past defenders and finish in traffic. In addition to his scoring inside, Berry is an outstanding passer in the paint. He finds teammates spotting up for threes and also dishes cleverly to big men for dunks. He understands the balance required between shooting and passing and is a proven winner.
Joel is an outstanding young man who has been the player of the year in the state of Florida in each of the last two seasons. He is a true quarterback on the floor, but he has the ability to score as well. He’s a leader and an excellent student. His teammates enjoy playing alongside him.
If anything, Berry marks a return of sorts to the days of Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton, at least in terms of having a point guard who can use his strength to get into the lane and score. Berry doesn't possess the same quickness as Lawson or Felton and he will need to work on his three point shooting. Then again, neither Felton or Lawson were great three point shooters out of the gate but as juniors featured that as a primary weapon to compliment their driving ability.
Berrry will join junior Marcus Paige and sophomore Nate Britt next season as the Tar Heels' third point guard(along with Luke Davis and presumably Stilman White) After losing two primary ballhandlers in 2012 and seeing a Final Four run derailed because of it, it is obvious Roy Williams intends to never be without a quality floor general if he can help it. Given UNC will still have some wing depth issues, Paige and/or Berry will probably see some time at the two.
Justin Jackson, SF, 6-7, 180 lbs, Homeschool Christian Youth(TX)
Rankings: RSCI: 7th, Scout: 9th, Rivals: 10th, ESPN: 8th
Jackson’s game illustrates the potency of simplicity. He’s economical, relatively sizzle-free and tends to play in a straight line. Those qualities may not scream superstar, but within the parameters of his own style and talent, he has become a magnificent all-around contributor. He does his best work in no-man’s land, the area of the court 6-13 feet from the basket. That said, he's also a fine three-point shooter, handler and passer.
Justin has tremendous ability, but is getting better and better. He’s 6-8 with perimeter skills. He performed well last summer against tough competition, including at USA Basketball events. He is slender at this point, but will be able to get stronger and can add a great deal to his body. But he has wonderful skills and is a great student.
Jackson went from simply being a good player to top ten prospect seemingly overnight. As noted in his profile, Jackson does a little bit of everything and will bring an all-around game to the Tar Heels. Much like other players coming into the program, Jackson will need to spend some time with Jonas Sahratian to work on his overall strength. Also since he will be playing on the wing in Roy Williams' offense he will need to be able to knock down threes and run the floor.
On the surface, Jackson looks more polished than J.P. Tokoto in terms of his skills but doesn't possess the same kind of athleticism. Granted not many people do but looking at next season's depth chart, it is easy to see how Tokoto and Jackson might form a nice tandem at the SF position, especially if Tokoto continues to improve.
Theo Pinson, SF/SG, 6-6, 180 lbs, Wesleyan Christian Academy(NC)
Rankings: RSCI: 19th, Scout: 27th, Rivals: 19th, ESPN: 13th
All-around utility contributions are likely to be Pinson's hallmark, but that description shouldn't interpreted as a restraining box. He's capable of explosive offensive outbursts but, while that aspect of his game isn't yet consistent, so many of his other attributes are. He also possesses outstanding body control for finishing in traffic. He does some of his most vital work defensively, where he's a potential lockdown wing.
Theo’s versatility is a big part of his game. He can do almost everything on the court and do it well. He can handle the ball, pass, defend and he has tremendous savvy. His family did a great job guiding him through tough competitions with USA Basketball, playing summer basketball and winning state championships. I love his versatility which allows him to play multiple positions, which is something we always like in a player.
Pinson is a wing player who, with his size, would fit on either side of the floor in UNC's offense. The most notable aspect of his game is his defense which will earn him minutes. It is no mystery Williams loves having a solid wing defender even at the expense of a better offensive option. Based on his profile Pinson would fit that bill. The future Tar Heel is also touted as athletic but there are questions concerning his overall offensive game with Scout.com indicating his three point shooting as a "weakness."
Put simply, Pinson looks like a another Marcus Ginyard/Dexter Strickland type of player. He has the potential to be a great defender but his offensive game is not quite as developed. Peeking ahead to UNC's overall wing situation next season, there is a good chance Pinson sees a lot of minutes at the two. Tokoto and Jackson will take most of the time at the three position. However with Leslie McDonald's eligibility running out and P.J. Hairston most certainly going to the NBA, there isn't a natural two on the roster besides Pinson. Paige and Berry will see some time there but assuming Pinson is up to the task(and barring a surprise commitment from Rashad Vaughn) he may be the starting two guard in 2014-15.
In terms of the overall outlook for the program, these three players will join much of the current roster sans Leslie McDonald, P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo. In theory the 2014-15 team will have a solid mix of talent and experience at key positions. Assuming most of the roster stays intact for two years, with additional talent being added, the stage is set for a very good 2015-16 team to possibly make a run at the Final Four. In this day and age nothing is a sure thing, especially keeping players. If Roy Williams can, regardless of what happens this season, the future looks bright.