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IC Looks At Michael Jordan's Recruitment

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Time to jump into The Wayback Machine.

This is a really interesting read for various reasons. The first is Roy Williams actually make the recruitment more difficult by ensuring Michael Jordan went to a prestigious prep basketball came in Pennsylvania which alerted everyone to Jordan's talent.

Even with news starting to leak out, Jordan remained relatively unknown on the national scene. Coach Smith was anxious to keep it that way after watching Jordan excel at his summer camp.

“Very few people knew about him at that time,” Williams recalled. “Michael came and he just destroyed everybody in the camp.”

What impressed Smith and his staff was Jordan’s hunger to learn. He kept sneaking into drills. They couldn’t get him off the court. By the end of the session, the Tar Heel coach knew that he was sitting on a special prospect.

But he also knew that Jordan was about to go national.

In his autobiography, Smith explained that Williams and assistant coach Eddie Fogler had—without his knowledge or consent—called Howard Garfinkel, who ran the prestigious Five-Star Camp in Honesdale, Pa. (near Pittsburgh), and arranged for Jordan to attend.

That’s not quite what happened, according to Williams.

“One night during [UNC’s] camp, Pops told me that he had also got Michael an invitation to the Five-Star Camp or the BC camp,” Williams said.

“Pops” was Clifton Herring, Jordan’s coach at Laney High School. The two camps he mentioned were the two existing national showcase events—Garfinkel’s Five-Star and Bill Cronauer’s camp in Milledgeville, Ga. In that era, before the explosion of AAU basketball, those camps were far more important than any of today’s many summer events.

“Remember, that was before the Internet,” Gibbons said. “Those two camps were the only place kids could get national exposure.”

Herring wanted Williams’s advice about attending one of the camps.

“He asked me what I thought,” Williams recounted. “I said, ‘I think he should go. I think it would be a great test of him. If I had my choice, I would go to the Five-Star Camp.’ I thought that would be better for him because it was such a good teaching camp. It wasn’t just about playing games. It was teaching the fundamentals of the game of basketball.

“So I called Howard Garfinkel and told him that Michael was coming and he would really be pleased with him as a player. I told Garf, ‘He’s going to be good enough to be a waiter.’ You see, if you could wait tables, you could go two weeks for the price of one. So I did call Garf and talked about the opportunity. “

Smith told Williams that it would have been better if Jordan did not attend Five-Star.

“I said, ‘Coach, in my opinion, he was going to go and I was just trying to give him some guidance about what I thought would be best for him,” Williams responded. “And Michael’s family really appreciated it.”

As it turned out, Smith’s worst fears were realized at Five-Star. Jordan enjoyed a spectacular double session. He was the MVP of the first session and the only reason he didn’t win the second-session MVP was that camp rules prevented one player from winning that award twice.

“He won seven awards in the two sessions,” Oettinger recalls.

Jordan's appearance at that even brought more recruiting suitors into a race which UNC was running along for several months. Roy maintains he only did it because it was in the best interest of Jordan and says he thinks that made an impression on Jordan's father, James. Still Dean became worried they would lose Jordan when it appeared he was a virtual lock.

The second intriguing part is how little information there was on high school recruits and what the public or even the media knew about them. For example, Jordan was omitted from a list of top prep players in Street & Smith at one point. Buzz Petersen being named North Carolina POY over Jordan was also a result of the media voters simply not knowing about Jordan. Now, as soon as a player is on UNC's radar he is on the radar of thousands of fans because it gets reported on Inside Carolina or some other recruiting news source. Now you have multiple recruiting evaluators out there versus 1980 where it was basically Bob Gibbons and maybe a few others. There was no internet, Twitter or message boards to crank out any and all information. Recruiting operated under the radar for the most part, something I am sure coaches who worked in that era wish was still the case.

Having read this I can only imagine the reactions and analysis of his recruitment if it happened in today's climate.

Side Note: There is a tinge of sadness in the fact IC had to rely on Dean Smith's autobiography for his view of Jordan's recruitment instead of Dean himself. Another reminder that while the legendary coach is still with us, we are robbed of the stories he could tell about events like these.