You may have caught Michael’s post Monday about the work that that Deja Kelly has done in building her NIL portfolio, becoming one of the strongest in all of women’s college basketball, if not college sports, with what she’s been able to sign. That alone is impressive.
What’s also impressive is the team that Courtney Banghart has built around Deja, and continues to do so.
The news got even better over this past weekend when Banghart was told yet another top player was going to come to Chapel Hill:
Tar Heel Nation!! What’s up?#GFDTBATH pic.twitter.com/5frxM4jUG7— RyLee Grays (@DunkingBeauty) June 19, 2022
The 2023 class for the Lady Tar Heels is already setting up to be something. Grays joins two other five star prospects in the class. Why is that important, besides just the simple fact that a strong foundation is being built to make the Tar Heels a strong program for years to come?
It’s about the fact that when you look at the roster, this powerhouse class will join a team that will have seniors Deja Kelly, Anya Poole, Kennedy Todd-Williams, Alyssa Ustby, and Alexandra Zelaya. This is the core that came the closest this season to knocking off South Carolina. When you look at how the Gamecocks marched to the national title, observers noticed just how much trouble the Tar Heels gave them.
There’s a real reason for excitement with this program, and it’s not just about last season. It’s pretty clear at this point that the current core that is there enjoys playing for and with each other, look no further than the gift that Kelly got everyone on the team, including her coach:
The kid got a sweet NIL deal. Next: she hooked up her circle…teammates and coaches. The words got me .— Courtney Banghart (@CoachBanghart) June 17, 2022
And now, my ears travel in style. Boom. Gratitude @dejakelly25 pic.twitter.com/1FB6eGYjlG
Yes, those are Beats headphones, courtesy of her NIL deal, in Carolina Blue, with each player’s number on the side. Kelly isn’t the only one turning heads worthy of selling merchandise, though:
Let’s Goooo @Ktoddwilli shirts are in @JohnnyTshirt #3 https://t.co/Y0PHAfvN8l— Brenda Brenda Brenda (@YOgetchagirl) June 17, 2022
The danger, of course, is that this squad could get lost with what’s going on in South Campus and all of the returnees with the men’s team. It didn’t help that their thrilling loss to South Carolina this year happened on the same day as the men’s team played UCLA in the Sweet 16, and they fell out of the ACC Tournament early with a thrilling but controversial finish that occurred early in the day. The good sign, though, is that the players on the men’s team seem to be in on helping this squad as much as possible.
The best way to tell? Just look at ace recruiter Armando Bacot. He of the prowess that had brought in numerous players to join him in the Smith Center, as well as recruit for football, he decided to lend his weight for recruiting for the women’s team as well:
I love Armando Bacot bc he impacts the game beyond the stat line. Business savvy young man with presence on and off the court. #fangirl #GoHeels pic.twitter.com/JG34Y8JQ8N— Dany Grays (@7Grays) June 8, 2022
The last name is not a coincidence, that’s the mother of the newest Tar Heel to join the squad. With that sort of statement you know this wasn’t just a blow by for a quick picture. Bacot helped sell Gray’s mother on Banghart and Chapel Hill. It says a lot about Bacot for sure, but it also says something about the culture that now exists in that building where everyone wants to help this squad continue to grow and thrive.
In the short term, the ACC looks to be stacked again. In the last way-too-early top 25 for ESPN, the Tar Heels come in at number 13, but still are staring up at Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, NC State, and Louisville. That’s five teams from the ACC in the top 13, and the Tar Heels are at the bottom of that group. On top of that, superstar Aliyah Boston is still in Columbia for the Gamecocks, UConn will always put up a fight. The Tar Heels will have their work cut out for them again, but there’s no doubt the juice is in the program going forward.
You may want to get in now while you can.