There's been one cliche that's irked me this afternoon, and it's "mass exodus." For some reason, it doesn't strike me as an accurate description of Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall going pro. They're three highly touted NBA draft picks, not players fleeing a horrible situation. And more importantly, they're leaving behind a lot of talent. Next year isn't going to start like 2006, where fans we'll be struggling to remember the name of anyone besides David Noel. There will be three scholarship upperclassmen, all with significant playing experience, plus (presuming James Michael McAdoo does not elect to go pro as well) the sixth and seventh men from this year's team. I'm not ring to be fumbling to remember names. But it's worth taking a look at what players UNC has returning, and what they can still hope to do this late in the spring for next year.
First of all, here are the scholarships for the returning players as things currently stand, with Stilman White leaving for his Mormon Mission:
|Leslie McDonald||SG||Redshirt Junior|
|James Michael McAdoo||PF||Sophomore|
To this we can add the four incoming freshmen already planning on coming to Chapel Hill:
This at least gives the Tar Heels depth at every position, when you take into account the fluidity between shooting guard and small forward. It wouldn't surprise me to see three of Hairston, Bullock, Strickland, and McDonald on the floor at the same time next season. That gives us a total of 11 of the 13 available scholarships. There's also Luke Davis, who transferred from Gardner–Webb last year, but he will be a walk–on in the Marc Campbell vein, and not take up a scholarship.
So two remaining slots — what are UNC's options. High on the list is Alex Orikhai, who as a rising senior is eligible to transfer from Connecticut in light of the NCAA declaring them ineligible for the 2013 postseason. A 6'9" big man starting for a Big East team, Orikhai is drawing interest from just about everyone, although Duke and UNC are the teams mentioned most prominently. No one from UNC has officially made contact with him, although Marshall was joking around on Twitter with the guy.
Outside of that, there's also 2013 and beyond to keep in mind though. Roy Williams was in Dallas on Thursday to see Julius Randle, a 6'9" forward folks are comparing to Marvin Williams. UNC already has two players saying their coming to UNC in 2013 — point guard Nate Britt and power forward Isiah Hicks — and offers to three more, one being Randle. Now, I'm unclear as to the status of Jackson Simmons' scholarship; he's a "preferred walk-on" but I don't know if that means they'll use his scholarship for someone else if things get tight, or if that's even allowed under NCAA rules. But as it stands, twelve of thirteen scholarships are spoken for the 2013-2014 season. Now McAdoo might go pro in another year, and a myriad of other unpredictable events could occur, but I don't see Roy recruiting someone last minute just to fill a space, if it's going to confine him a year or two down the road.
Note that I said exactly that each of the past two years, and Roy Williams has proven me wrong. But either way, I don't think this team will be nearly as starved for talent as people are assuming at first glance. It'll be the UNC we remember, except possibly faster and perhaps shooting threes like we haven't seen in quite some time.