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UNC Basketball: Late Night with Roy Recruiting Primer

Five recruits will visit UNC this weekend. Here’s a quick rundown.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Practice Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the football program will welcome Clemson to Kenan. The previous night, basketball will have hosted Late Night with Roy in the Dean Dome. To combine two of UNC’s biggest fall sporting events, the men’s basketball program has also secured a slew of official (and unofficial) visits from high-level prospects as they try to gain some momentum for their 2020 recruiting class. These visits are in addition to the visits that 5-stars Walker Kessler (center) and Caleb Love (PG) just took this past weekend. In case you missed it, Kessler actually committed within hours of concluding his official visit. Let’s take a look at the expected visitors in a quick recruiting primer.

Class of 2021

Paolo Banchero

Power Forward
6-9, 235
247 Rank: #4
Rivals Rank: #2
ESPN Rank: #3

Banchero is a top-5 player in the 2021 class, but don’t look too much into this visit. He’s just making full use of the NCAA’s new rules allowing five official visits as a high school junior in addition to five more official visits as a senior. A 6-9 power forward, Banchero would help ease the known departures of Sterling Manley, Brandon Huffman, and Garrison Brooks after the ‘20-’21 season (and potential departures of Armando Bacot, Day’Ron Sharpe, and/or Kessler). Whether or not UNC is a realistic landing spot for the Seattle, Washington product is irrelevant right now. Earlier this decade, North Carolina couldn’t even get most of the top talent to even visit Chapel Hill. The world’s best boss Michael Scott once said, by way of Wayne Gretzky, that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. He might as well have been referring to the young relationship between UNC and Banchero.

Class of 2020

Day’Ron Sharpe

6-10, 250
247 Rank: #18
Rivals Rank: #13
ESPN Rank: #20

Sharpe was the Heels’ lone commitment for 2020 until Walker Kessler joined him this past weekend. He verbally committed to UNC way back in January of 2018 as a raw 4-star project and has only soared through the rankings since then. Now a consensus five-star recruit, Sharpe is actively looking for teammates to join him in Carolina blue. A true post player with soft hands, long arms, and the ability to hit the glass and run the floor, Sharpe will be a legitimate first-year contributor. He would love some company to help fill the void after UNC expects to lose at least four scholarship players next spring. This weekend is more about him recruiting future teammates than it is convincing him to stay a Heel. Part of his mission this weekend will entail applying some friendly pressure on his new high school teammate, Cade Cunningham. Both will play their senior seasons at Monteverde Academy in Florida.

Cade Cunningham

Point Guard
6-7, 215
247 Rank: #2
Rivals Rank: #2
ESPN Rank: #2

The consensus #2 overall recruit for 2020, Cunningham would seem to be the UNC staff’s favorite candidate to replace Cole Anthony next spring (No, Cole hasn’t officially announced any intentions. Just prepare yourself now). At 6-7, he technically could slide into four positions (like Leaky Black), but that would be an inefficient use of his offensive abilities. An explosive athlete who can create for himself and others, Cunningham’s superior ball handling and attacking mindset are best utilized at the point. Unless UNC lands another of its primary point guard targets that moves Cade off the ball, Cunningham is the most probable candidate to take over the keys on offense if he commits to UNC. Most pundits think he’ll end up at Oklahoma State where his brother was recently hired, but in this instance, that may not be the case. Coby White’s success and Anthony’s anticipated success may be enough to persuade Cunningham to spend a year in Chapel Hill.

Ziaire Williams

Small Forward
6-7, 175
247 Rank: #6
Rivals Rank: #6
ESPN Rank: #5

A consensus top-10 recruit, Williams got the coaching staff’s attention when he decided to travel across the country last season to unofficially visit 2018’s Late Night with Roy. He followed that up with an official visit in the spring. Since then, this recruitment is perceived to be between UNC and Stanford, but the Williams family is extremely tight-lipped so that is mostly conjecture. A combo small/power forward, Williams’ athleticism would be a worthy replacement for the triumvirate of wings (Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce, Brandon Robinson) that will leave Chapel Hill next spring. Though he’s from the West Coast, he’s also familiar with fellow official visitor Cade Cunningham. (See a theme yet?) They both played on the Team USA FIBA U-19 squad that took the gold medal at the FIBA World Cup.

Greg Brown (unofficial)

Power Forward
6-9, 195
247 Rank: #10
Rivals Rank: #7
ESPN Rank: #8

Interestingly, Greg Brown will take his second unofficial visit to Chapel Hill. He is expected to save his official visit to attend a high-profile game at some point during the season. Also considering Texas (he’s from Austin), Auburn, and Memphis, the Heels are hoping to rekindle some of the magic that blew Brown away on his initial visit. A 6-9 power forward with freakish athleticism, and currently more of a slasher than a shooter, Brown’s upside may be as high as anyone’s in the class. Aggressive and unafraid of contact, Brown has never seen a rim that he couldn’t dunk through. At UNC, he would blossom in the open court as he developed his other perimeter skills – specifically ball handling and shooting from distance. Interestingly, his dad played football for current UNC coach Mack Brown.

This weekend is one of the biggest recruiting weekends the basketball program has hosted in quite some time. Four top-20 recruits from 2020 and one top-5 recruit from 2021 is nothing to sneeze at. It’s also not a coincidence that all the 2020 recruits play different position while also providing versatility. In the current one-and-done era, (and all of these recruits have one-and-done aspirations), piecing together complementary skillsets, egos, and mentalities can be difficult.

Regardless, with just two current commits for 2020, this class is quickly shaping up as a boom or bust class for Roy Williams and his staff. Coaches rarely freak out over recruiting timelines and commitments like fans do, but it’s fair to assume that the staff doesn’t want to scramble for graduate transfers and decommitted players next spring. While there is no timetable for any announcements, hopefully this weekend is a major step in avoiding a mad dash next spring.