Watkins visit report, with photos

Senior center Darryl Watkins wrapped up his official visit to Chapel Hill Monday night at the Smith Center sitting courtside for the UNC-Wyoming game. <i>Inside Carolina</i> reports, with photos, on the New Jersey seven-footer's trip to UNC.

CHAPEL HILL -- The chants began before he had even entered the Smith Center. And that was more than two hours before tipoff Monday evening.

"Darryl Watkins, Darryl Watkins, Darryl Watkins ..."

The unassuming seven-footer was greeted by fans as he walked in the arena with the team, though a far louder fan greeting awaited him later in the night.

Darryl Watkins, from Paterson (N.J.) Catholic, arrived Sunday afternoon for his official visit to Chapel Hill, thanks to some last-minute planning by Watkins' family and the North Carolina coaching staff.

The senior is the last piece in the recruiting puzzle for the Tar Heels, who appear a heralded true center away from joining the nation's elite next winter. Throw in that Watkins is the last true center remaining in the 2003 class, and that made this visit all the more important.

And UNC accordingly rolled out the red carpet.

Watkins met the team, the coaches and academic officials, and spent Sunday evening with the players. On Monday, with sunny 70-degree weather, he toured the campus with some of the players and met students in The Pit.

"He met everyone he needed to meet and things went well -- things went very well," said a source close the UNC basketball program.

After Watkins was met with cheers upon his entrance to the Smith Center, he received a standing ovation and chants of "We Want Darryl" when he walked onto the court during the team shootaround 75 minutes before tipoff.

At halftime of the game, with Watkins sitting courtside behind the UNC bench, the crowd erupted in a chant of "We Want Watkins."

Is there any chance he commits before he leaves the Hill? The source wouldn't deny the possibility, but didn't expect a commitment during the visit. UNC has yet to officially offer Watkins, who has yet to receive a qualifying score on the SAT, but there's no doubt the Tar Heels would accept his commitment immediately if he decided he wanted to be a Tar Heel.

After Carolina's 90-74 win over Wyoming before a boisterous, standing crowd, Watkins was in the locker room watching the players get interviewed. The reserved locker room visitor sat quietly and was approached by Sean May - "You'll make my job easier!" May exclaimed during the exchange.

Watkins will depart Chapel Hill immediately following the game Monday evening.

"Now we've just got to cross our fingers," the source said.

The fans did their part to make Watkins feel welcome.

Watkins can't hold back the smile as the fans chant his name.

Stay tuned to Inside Carolina tomorrow for a full post-visit report.

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