When Roy Williams retired, we all knew that big change was coming to Chapel Hill. He was always a very old-school, (respectfully) stubborn guy that knew how he wanted things done, and how he wanted things done kept producing results. Sure, the modern game of basketball has evolved past a two-in-three-out system, but back-to-back Final Fours in 2016 and 2017 along with finishing out the latter with a national title earns you the right to be that level of stubborn. Taking it a step further, I’d even argue that the Nassir Little/Coby White season would’ve ended up in the Final Four if Little and Cam Johnson didn’t get sick during the NCAA Tournament. What Roy Williams did worked, but what Hubert Davis is doing not only works, but it is having a massive impact on the recruiting trail.
Last week, Jason Jordan with Sports Illustrated wrote a piece about comments G.G. Jackson made about the state of Carolina’s recruiting. Here’s what he had to say:
“I really believe that this is North Carolina’s time to get a lot of the top-top guys,” Jackson says. “Coach Davis just brings a fresh energy that’s gonna attract guys. I think a lot of the guys that people see as one-and-done are gonna start picking UNC again. Just watch.”
It’s exciting to know that the second-best player in the country thinks that UNC is going to become the place for elite recruits to play basketball, but what exactly makes him so confident? Incoming freshman Seth Trimble believes that the answer lies in Davis’ one-in-four-out system.
“Just to be able to see the freedom that the guys have at all five positions is something that players are looking for,” said Trimble, who will enroll at North Carolina this summer. “You want to be in a system where you can showcase your game and be able to play off your instincts within the system. That’s all that you can really ask for.”
For a lot of Carolina fans, Trimble’s comments feel like a saying the quiet part out loud type of moment. For years there have been various calls for Williams to modernize his system, but as I stated before, he was not only unwilling to do so because what he was doing was working. Sure, he missed out on future NBA players/stars in the process, but the 2017 national championship banner hanging in the Dean Smith Center was validation enough that he could keep doing things his way. That is, of course, until he told all of us that he wasn’t the man for the job anymore.
Now that Hubert Davis is the head coach, the Tar Heels have entered the modernized college basketball universe, and they were one win away from winning the national championship. How did they do it? Playing through a stud in Armando Bacot, a lights-out shooter in Brady Manek, a lockdown defender in Leaky Black, and two highly talented guards in Caleb Love and RJ Davis. When it came to Manek specifically, he was the ultimate proof that the program has dramatically changed, as he 100% played his game and his game only, and the results were remarkable. The 2021-22 Tar Heels played with the ultimate freedom that Seth Trimble mentioned, which is exactly what draws in this generation of recruits.
Now that the quiet part has been said out loud, the ultimate question will be how Davis chooses to navigate recruiting moving forward. Sure, it’s great to get a top-five player like G.G. Jackson, but what we’ve learned from various iterations of Duke and Kentucky is that sometimes too many elite recruits can be a bad thing. No matter how talented players are, experience is extremely important when you get to the NCAA Tournament, which is exactly how the Heels (and Duke) managed to get as far as they did this past season. Teams predominantly ran by OAD talent is historically bad at reaching the Final Four, so it will be interesting to see how much focus Davis puts on long-term prospects.
Two final things that have made everything surrounding college rosters that much more chaotic are NIL and the transfer portal. With NIL, players have a lot more incentive to stay in school all while making a sizable amount of money. With the transfer portal, Hubert Davis basically has his pick of talented players from other programs that he thinks are perfect fits for his roster. To this point Davis has navigated all of this as well as anybody could’ve expected, and it hasn’t gone without being noticed by recruits.
There is a lot of hyperbole in college basketball, but ultimately I think Jackson and Trimble’s ears are close enough to the ground that they genuinely feel like UNC has a lot of great things in store for them in the future. If that is indeed the case, I think it’s safe to say we shouldn’t expect it to be another five years before Hubert Davis gets his team back to the Final Four. What do all of you think about Jackson and Trimble’s comments? Let us know in the comments below.