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North Carolina basketball recruiting: Roy Williams offers nine scholarships in two weeks

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After offering nine scholarships to top-100 recruits, the future of UNC basketball remains versatile.  

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Kentucky vs North Carolina Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The past few weeks have been busy for Roy Williams and the men’s basketball team. After the final live evaluation period in July, Williams unleashed the recruiting floodgates. Since that last week of July, Williams extended offers to nine different players between the 2018 and 2019 classes. Prior to this, the last recruit to receive an offer was Josh Nickelberry in January of this year.

Needless to say, fans were surprised and caught off guard by the sudden onslaught of offers. Nobody expected Williams to do his best Oprah impersonation and handing out scholarships to seemingly the entire recruiting database. Before exploring these new developments, take a look at the current UNC scholarship situation.

As of today, North Carolina has 12 scholarship players on the roster. As the game evolves, you’ll find some players listed as “hybrid” or “combo” players due to their versatility. I won’t do that (yet), but I readily acknowledge that many of UNC’s players can play multiple positions.

Point Guard : Joel Berry (Sr.), Seventh Woods (So.)

Shooting Guard: Kenny Williams (Jr.), Jalek Felton (Fr.), Andrew Platek (Fr.)

Small Forward: Theo Pinson (Sr.) Cameron Johnson (Jr.), Brandon Robinson (So.)

Power Forward: Luke Maye (Jr.), Garrison Brooks (Fr.)

Center: Brandon Huffman (Fr.), Sterling Manley (Fr.)

NCAA rules allow 13 scholarship players per season, so UNC already has an extra scholarship to give for next year. Joel Berry and Theo Pinson are guaranteed to leave via graduation. Their scholarships have already been accepted by Coby White and Rechon Black. Depending on how Cam Johnson and Jalek Felton adjust to life in Chapel Hill, it’s not unreasonable that they could also enter the NBA draft. That means UNC has anywhere from one to three scholarships remaining for 2018.

For potential 2018 Tar Heels, current offers are below. Rankings are courtesy of Scout and Inside Carolina. Recent offers are in italics.

Shooting Guard:

Josh Nickelberry, 6-1, 190, 5 stars, Overall Rank: 6

Small Forward:

Zion Williamson, 6-7, 230, 5 stars, Overall Rank: 4
Nassir Little, 6-7, 205, 5 stars, Overall Rank: 11
Jairus Hamilton, 6-8, 210, 4 stars, Overall Rank: 70

Power Forward

Simisola Shittu, 6-8, 210, 5 stars, Overall Rank: 10
Darius Days, 6-7, 220, 4 stars, Overall Rank: 65
Nate Laszewski, 6-10, 190, 4 stars, Overal Rank: 93

Committed

Coby White, SG, 6-4, 170, 4 stars, Overall Rank: 35
Rechon Black, SF, 6-7, 175, 4 stars, Overall Rank 73

Clearly Roy Williams is looking for a “big” man in 2018 to complement Manley, Huffman, and Brooks. The problem? There are not many traditional big men in the 2018 class. That may partially explain why it’s taken so long for him to pull the trigger on offering.

Over the years UNC fans have come to expect a more traditional offensive system with a three perimeter players and two post players. The new athletic “stretch-4” that has become more common throughout the game hasn’t quite found a consistent home in Chapel Hill. Luke “The Wildcat Killer” Maye is the closest to this mold of a player the Heels have had since Jawad and Marvin Williams

Either by necessity or because Williams is slowly (and willingly?) integrating old and new styles, all three new offers have the ability to step out beyond perimeter. All three possess various post-up strengths and weaknesses, but interestingly they all have the ability to shoot the three. That extra skill will help make up for the relative lack of height (Days) and strength (Laszewski) for a typical low post player. Not only would they provide a balance to the more traditional freshman big men, they would also would help UNC’s offense continue to be an attractive option as more players with stretch-4 or hybrid forward tendencies develop on the AAU circuits.

However, that may be an anomaly due to the specific nature of the 2018 class. The current 2019 recruiting class looks a little different. Again, the new offers are in italics

Point Guard

Ashton Hagans, 6-4, 185, 5 stars, Overall Ranking: 7

Shooting Guard

Josh Nickelberry, 6-4, 175, 4 stars, Overall Ranking: 24

Small Forward

Matthew Hurt, 6-8, 200, 5 stars, Overall Ranking: 5
Wendell Moore, 6-5, 210, 4 stars, Overall Ranking: 23

Power Forward

Vernon Carey, 6-9, 245, 5 stars, Overall Ranking: 1
James Wiseman, 6-11, 210, 5 stars, Overall Ranking: 2
Armando Bacot, 6-9, 225, 5 stars, Overall Ranking: 16

Committed

Jeremiah Francis, 6-3, 190, 4 stars, Overall Ranking: 64

Obviously the point guard and power forward positions were the priority for this class. Jeremiah Francis obliged the staff with a very quick acceptance, as he hopes to join the long list of great point guards from Chapel Hill

Expect the big men to take a little longer to decide. On this cycle of offers, Williams and company targeted the highest end of the available post players. Of note, unlike the 2018 class, all three have the size and the skillsets of a more traditional post presence. With Manley, Huffman, and Brooks all still likely at UNC and rising juniors by this time, this class will hopefully bring a top talent that will push those three for significant playing time. At the very least, the coaching staff is making that a priority at this juncture.

The other detail that should not go unnoticed – UNC appears to be building relationships with the top rated recruits at a faster rate than previous years. A national championship will do that, but it’s also a sign that the NCAA cloud may have finally lifted on the recruiting trail. With the upcoming COI panel, I refuse to get my hopes up, but it is still encouraging. Roy Williams doesn’t just throw offers around the way some schools do. For him to feel comfortable with offering this amount of players in such a short time should be recognized a potential turning point in recruits’ willingness to listen to UNC.

However, even if UNC whiffs on every single recruit on these lists just remember this:

Four months and 12 days ago the Tar Heels won their sixth NCAA Championship.

Go to hell Duke.