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UNC Basketball Summer Preview: Zayden High

Is the freshman ready to contribute right away?

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament Quarterfinals - Virginia vs North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The journey of the Tar Heels’ 2023 recruiting class has been an interesting one. Consensus five-star GG Jackson reclassified and changed his commitment to South Carolina before the start of last season. This summer, five-star point guard Elliot Cadeau reclassified from 2024, which led to the decommitment of Simeon Wilcher. There’s lots of buzz surrounding Cadeau and what he brings to this team, and rightfully so, but he’s joined by another freshman who’s flying under the radar a bit: Zayden High.

Past Previews links:

Armando Bacot

Cormac Ryan

Paxson Wojcik

Jae’Lyn Withers

RJ Davis

Jalen Washington

Harrison Ingram

James Okonkwo

Seth Trimble

Out of Spring Branch, Texas, High is a 6’9, 225-pound forward. He had previously been on UNC’s radar, but the acquisition of GG Jackson changed things for Hubert Davis and his staff. Naturally, after Jackson’s decision to decommit, the recruitment of High was soon back on. It didn’t take long before both parties realized it was an excellent fit and High made his decision to come to Chapel Hill.

High comes from a very solid family that knows and cares a lot about basketball. That passion is evident when he steps on the floor, as he often makes his mark by out-working/hustling his opponents, especially when it comes to rebounding. High possesses the size and strength to hold his own against centers, but will likely be utilized more at the four spot.

Offensively, High is capable of getting buckets, especially putbacks, in the paint, but his game is more perimeter-oriented. He has excellent ball skills for a guy his size and a remarkably fluid shooting stroke. High’s high school and EYBL shooting numbers weren’t mind-boggling, but some of that can be attributed to shot selection. He has a tendency to hoist deep threes, which he can make, but those will ultimately drag down your efficiency.

In order to truly make an impact, High must focus on expanding his game. His mid-range jumper is solid but could still use work. More importantly, he’s got the physicality to be very effective down low. Adding and developing post moves will be essential to his evolution in Chapel Hill. There’s certainly plenty to work with.

Defensively, High is very well-rounded. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he’s quick enough to stay in front of fours and fives and does well when forced to guard out on the perimeter. He’s strong enough to not get bullied in the paint, although some college centers could be overwhelming at this stage. As he continues to develop his strength and conditioning, High could become a fierce and versatile defender for the Tar Heels.

This season, High is likely facing an uphill battle when it comes to carving out a significant role. Given the presence of Armando Bacot and Jalen Washington, as well as the additions of Jae’Lyn Withers, Harrison Ingram, and James Okonkwo, there’s plenty of competition for minutes. For High, in order to stand out from this group, the key is shooting.

Of the names mentioned above, Withers is the only one who’s a proven three-point shooter, and even his numbers are difficult to judge. After Brady Manek’s success, Coach Davis is looking for that next great stretch big man to open things up. It would be foolish to expect him to make a similar impact right away, but High arguably fits that mold better than anyone else on the roster. If he’s able to find shots within the offense and knock them down, High could ultimately become a legitimate contributor on this squad.