Typically when North Carolina lands a commitment that prospect is very well known throughout the country. The Tar Heels historically have landed top priorities on their recruiting board, and players who have long track records of success at the high school level as well as against the best in summer basketball.
However on Sunday the Tar Heels did something different. They took a commitment from three-star center Sterling Manley.
What makes Manley unique is he has played very little basketball due to injury. As a junior he showed some signs of being a very nice prospect, but he ended up breaking his leg which forced him to miss the final month of his high school season and the entire spring and summer due to rehab.
In search of big men, North Carolina ventured to the state of Ohio to watch Manley play in open gym, and at that point decided to offer him a scholarship, and ultimately landed his commitment over Xavier, West Virginia, and Purdue.
Now the question is, what did UNC get with Manley?
The first thing to note about Manley is he is definitely a space eater. He is every bit of 6-foot-10 and around 240 pounds. Even in the age of small ball, having a true center who can control the paint is something that is important, and Manley has the size to be able to do that.
Also Manley is someone with good hands and pretty decent feet. While he doesn’t run the floor like a guard, or have the ability to switch ball screens on the perimeter, Manley does have above average feet for a big man, and he isn’t someone who should be overwhelmed trying to run the break like UNC likes to do, and he isn’t a total liability defending ball screens either.
On the offensive end he is a bit of a work in progress, but he also has shown improvement throughout his high school career. Right now Manley is more than capable of scoring with his back to the basket using angles, and then also isn’t totally out of his element shooting the eight to ten foot jumper.
He needs to continue to work on post moves and counter moves, but the base is there for Manley to be a solid offensive player who in time is somebody that coaches might even have to double down on when he catches it on the block.
When it comes to defense, Manley is a solid shot blocker because of his size and length, and will be a good position defender in time. He has the good frame of a big, and then he will get much stronger in a college strength and conditioning program.
One of the biggest questions around Manley has been his ability to stay healthy. He has had leg issues throughout high school, but he is working to overcome them.
Also, outside of his size, Manley doesn’t have one just absolute standout skill that jumps off the page. He is solid in a lot of areas, but he doesn’t dominate in any of them.
Right now Manley is a three-star prospect, but there is upside. A healthy and productive season could be a game changer relative to how Manley is viewed. Time will tell what North Carolina got in Manley.
There is no doubt he is more of a mystery than most recruits who have made their way to Chapel Hill, but the size is there, and he does have upside. Now as a senior he has to show that the hype from his improvement this fall is justified.