North Carolina freshmen: early look

For almost the entirety of the Roy Williams era in Chapel Hill, UNC has signed a top-10 recruiting class each cycle.

But the Tar Heels missed out on several top targets during the 2012 and 2013 classes, including elite big man — and now Kentucky superstar — Julius Randle. The North Carolina program has built its reputation on inside-out basketball, but the Heels landed what for them was an atypically low No. 13 overall class.

That said, the early returns have been encouraging, even if not overwhelming. Interestingly, however, Isaiah Hicks was the No. 18 senior and a McDonald's All-American, yet he has played only eight minutes per contest. He's behind more experienced power forwards James Michael McAdoo and Brice Johnson, limiting his opportunities so far.

But center Kennedy Meeks, who finished at only No. 68 in the class, appears to be pushing for a starting spot. He's averaging seven points and six rebounds in only 13 minutes per game, and he enjoyed his finest performance yet — 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists — in UNC's breakthrough victory over Louisville last weekend. He's shooting 57 percent from the field as well, and as he melts away additional weight (he reported to Chapel Hill in excess of 300 pounds) he should enjoy greater playing time and scoring opportunities.

Nate Britt is starting at point guard and, though his stats don't tell the story, has performed capably. Yes, the Washington, D.C. native has notched only four points and two assists per game, not exactly soaring production in 24 minutes of action each outing. But he also has handled defensive pressure well and enabled Paige to slide over to the wing, where the sophomore has opened the season red hot from long range.

Britt at one time had been considered an elite prospect in the 2013 class, but he has struggled with his jump shot the past two years. Encouraging for him is that he's playing such a big role without facing any pressure — or expectations — to be a scorer.

Carolina's class featured only three players, and oddly it's the highest rated of the group, Hicks, who's playing by far the least. He's likely to serve as an understudy this season at the deepest position on the squad, and his role should expand considerably in 2014-15.

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