On April 23, Cole Anthony committed to the University of North Carolina. Ranked as high as the number two overall high school player in the country, Anthony and the fellow 2019 Tar Heel freshmen follow the stellar class of 2018 that included Nassir Little and Coby White. The Heels are on a recruiting roll.
There was certainly a lot of excitement in the summer a year ago with Little generally ranked as the number three national recruit. The only hesitancy was that Little was joining a deep Tar Heel squad with plenty of upperclassmen leadership, particularly at his preferred position in the form of Cameron Johnson. Coby White largely flew under the national radar and appeared preseason to be locked in a position battle of his own.
These elements that can subdue an excited fan base are not present for Cole Anthony. Not only is Anthony a very highly-ranked player that appears to have all the tools to succeed, he is in an excellent position to be a star in his first year. There is no point guard battle to be won for Anthony with White declaring for the draft and Seventh Woods transferring. Additionally, with so much talent departing from last year, Anthony will be poised to be a leader and the go-to player for the likely top ten ranked Heels.
So the question becomes, with all of the great recruits that Carolina has seen on the hard court over the years, who was the most highly anticipated? This is not a question that involves actual results while at the school, nor is it a conversation about the recruits who did the most to exceed expectations (perhaps Luke Maye?).
The Debate for the week of June 18: Who has been the most highly anticipated recruit for the North Carolina basketball team?
Note, this list is limited to the players that have been recruited over the last 30 years, because that covers the period of time that I can attest to. Have someone else that should be considered? Fire away in the comments.
Point: Harrison Barnes
The 2009-2010 season was the beginning of a rebuild for the Tar Heels. Fresh off of a National Championship and an unforgettable team, a great recruiting class seemed to indicate a quick rejuvenation. That was not the case. The Heels struggled throughout the season, finishing 5-11 in conference. A good run in the NIT ended with a championship loss to Dayton.
Following the season, more hardship struck. Deon Thompson and Marcus Ginyard graduated. Ed Davis declared for the draft. David and Travis Wear transferred. Finally, Will Graves was declared ineligible. Things looked suddenly bleak after so much success and the fan base was in need of a savior. That person was the number 1 rated national recruit from Ames, Iowa.
Harrison Barnes was a standout high school star who led Ames High School to an undefeated senior season and state championship. Barnes was a McDonald’s All-American and was selected to the Junior National Select Team. He was also named a preseason AP All-American.
Barnes was viewed by many as the shining star for the future of Carolina basketball. He arrived at a relatively low point for the program and was poised to be an instant college success. Barnes was the most highly anticipated recruit in recent memory for the Heels.
Counter Point: Ronald Curry
I will call your number 1 ranked basketball recruit and raise you the number 1 football recruit. Both being the same player? Unheard of.
In 1998, Ronald Curry was perhaps the most highly sought after high school senior in the history of modern college recruiting. Born and raised in Hampton, Virginia, Curry excelled on the football field. Curry played quarterback, defensive back, and kick returner, leading his team to three consecutive state championships.
Curry was also a tremendous basketball player. He led his senior high school team to a state championship and went on to be named a McDonald’s All-American. Curry would wow fans at the McDonald’s event, winning the slam dunk contest (at a height of 6’2”) before being named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Curry had every athletic gift imaginable.
Even better, Curry verbally committed to the University of Virginia before ultimately changing his mind and attending North Carolina. Bringing in a hero and villain at the same time was the cherry on top.
Time for you to decide! Was Harrison Barnes the most highly anticipated recruit at North Carolina, or was it two-athlete star Ronald Curry. Perhaps it was none of the above.
As always, readers are encouraged to join in through the comments and point out what we got right, what we got wrong, and what we never thought of. Also, please feel free to provide suggestions for future topics so we can cover what interests readers and what information is needed to ensure victory when debating slow-witted friends who don’t read the articles!