Evan Daniels: Anytime a coach lands three top 30 players, they put together a heck of a class. I know expectations are high at UNC and they did miss on some elite level guys, but this is a very good haul with three terrific high school basketball players.
They wanted to bring in a point guard that could make an immediate impact and they did that. Berry understands how to run the point guard position, is a quality passer and is also a good shooter out to three. They also needed to add some perimeter punch and I think they did just that. Jackson and Pinson are different, but both effective in their own ways. Jackson is a skilled scorer. He's very good from mid-range, especially with his floater, but he's also a good shooter to three, despite not taking many attempts. Pinson is a high level athlete that thrives in transition and as an on the ball defender.
Rob Harrington: This is a fantastic class for UNC, and at just the right time. The Tar Heels obviously had suffered a few recent recruiting misses, and this class will bring in immense talent and reverse the perception that they've become a cold program. No, the incoming trio don't carry quite the accolades of the Raymond Felton/Sean May/Rashad McCants haul, but all three project as potential multi-year starters. The 2013-14 Heels lack perimeter punch and depth, but that will change for the better overnight thanks to this class.
Brian Snow: Overall it is a very good group. The star is clearly Justin Jackson, who should be as efficient of a scorer as a freshman as there is in this class. Theo Pinson will give an athletic presence on the wing and then Joel Berry is a scoring floor general who is someone who should have an excellent career in Chapel Hill.
While this isn't the sure fire one and done group that a school like Kentucky has brought in, recently, it is an excellent group that should account for a lot of wins. It is tough to imagine this group falling much out of the top five nationally, if it does drop that far to begin with.
UNC was aiming for multiple wing players in this class because of the void of talent and depth there in 2014-15. To that end, how much of an impact can these three have as freshmen? And is there enough versatility in this trio to fit multiple positions and needs - such as Berry off the ball, Pinson at shooting guard, Jackson as a three-point shooter?
Evan Daniels: I think Berry will likely have an opportunity to start or at least play significant minutes as a freshman and I think he'll be ready for that role. He's a tough kid that doesn't get rattled. He's a high IQ guy that is a good fit for how Williams likes to use his point guards. I can see him making an immediate contribution. The same goes for Jackson and Pinson. I think from a scoring standpoint, Jackson will be the most effective. He's efficient with how he scores points and I think in UNC's system Jackson will thrive. Pinson will also play early at Carolina and, as I mentioned, I think his presence will be felt in transition and on the defensive end.
I could see UNC playing multiple lead guards together, but I think Berry is at his best playing on the ball. He does shoot the ball well enough where you could use him in a combination guard role, but I prefer him on the ball. Pinson is a wing and the shooting guard and small forward positions are somewhat interchangeable at times. Pinson can certainly guard opposing two guards and will likely draw the opposition's best perimeter option. Pinson's issue is he is a very streaky long-range shooter. The interesting thing about Jackson is he's a good shooter from three, but he rarely looks to shoot long-range shots. It's actually quite puzzling, because I think he could be a major threat from behind the arc.
Rob Harrington: They'll play in part because they have to based on the absence of depth, but even in a more optimum scenario I think they'd push hypothetical returnees for big minutes. Analyzing their freshman seasons, two questions stand most prominently: 1) Berry is physically advanced, but will Jackson and Pinson carry sufficient weight to succeed against older and more experienced opponents?; 2) Will these guys be able to command respect from the three-point line? My take is that Berry and Pinson will struggle as freshman shooters, and Jackson is more of a mid-range, quick shooter than he is a long bomber. That said, he has proven to be reasonably adept from distance as well, and I think he'll at least help from deep range.
Brian Snow: I think this group can all be together on the floor at the same time. While Pinson and Jackson might be slightly better as a small forward than a shooting guard, realistically speaking there is no difference between the two positions and any coach with any basketball IQ can fit them both on the floor at the same time, and clearly Roy Williams fits into that mold.
What will be interesting is if Carolina would want to put Marcus Paige on the floor with those three as a point guard. What that would do is slide Pinson down to the power forward position. I think in this day and age of college basketball that Pinson could handle it defensively, and then on the offensive end he could be a major mismatch type player. Now it isn't something that UNC would want to do a ton of, but it isn't something I would completely rule out. Michigan went to the Final Four with Glenn Robinson III as a power forward, UNC could follow that same type of model.
Roy Williams clearly wanted to add a perimeter shooter/scorer to this group, hence the strong early push for Rashad Vaughn, and later the pursuit of Robert Johnson, plus offers to others. Do you see that as a glaring, remaining need?
Evan Daniels: It's certainly a need they wanted to fill and weren't able to. Vaughn, Johnson and even Blackmon, who they never really had a shot at, would have fit in nicely with UNC's 2014 recruiting class. While Jackson and Pinson are both perimeter threats, neither are knock-down three-point shooters. While they are still after Vaughn, I think it's doubtful that they land him. Johnson and Blackmon are now off the board and there doesn't appear to be any other shooters that are good enough available. Perhaps something in the spring opens up because it is certainly a need that they wanted it fill.
Rob Harrington: Without a doubt. This isn't just a 2014-15 issue, either; the Tar Heels might field a national contender in 2016, but long-range shooting appears questionable going forward. They'll need Marcus Paige to continue to improve, of course, and by then maybe the 2014 recruits (who will be sophomores that season) will have become more reliable. Still, their efforts were understandable and that remains a significant recruiting priority.
Brian Snow: I think Justin Jackson will make perimeter jumpers in college, and Marcus Paige is more than capable as well. Now would a pure shooter be a benefit? Yes, but I am not sure that the need is completely glaring. There are capable shooters on the roster, even if none of them would fit the mold of a "pure shooter."
I presume you'll all agree that the odds of UNC adding anyone else to this class (current offers are out to Vaughn and Exum) is unlikely considering the current options. Why do you think that's the case with those two specifically and anyone else?
Evan Daniels: I personally think that Vaughn favors Iowa State and UNLV. Iowa State has been a favorite for Vaughn for the past two years. Fred Hoiberg has established a relationship and will get him on campus soon. UNLV has specifically made a strong push since he landed at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep for his senior season. Baylor, Kansas and UNC are involved but I think they are in the second tier for Vaughn.
With Exum, it's simple really. At this stage he's tracking as a top five draft pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. If his status holds steady, it'd be tough for him to turn down that type of opportunity and money. I expect him to go pro.
Rob Harrington: Vaughn and UNC were a hot commodity in the spring, but UNC threw its best punch and couldn't quite win a commitment. Since then, and despite the fact that Roy Williams followed him closely during the summer, Vaughn and the Tar Heels have continued to drift apart. To answer why that's the case would be more complex, but in part I think Vaughn's situation — a recruitment not directed entirely by his family — and Carolina's overall problems recruiting one-and-done prospects contributed to the loss of interest. As for Exum, he appears to be an NBA priority and would be undertaking a huge risk by playing college basketball at all.
Brian Snow: With Dante Exum he would either have to really love school or really hate money to attend college, and not too many people on this planet fit into those two categories, I know I sure don't. So I think with him it is just a matter of him being able to go to the NBA. Vaughn, for whatever reason, has never seemed super high on the Tar Heels. He has shown consistent interest with his actions and what he says, but behind the scenes it has always been about other schools besides Carolina.
The UNC staff is already well underway with its recruitment of the class of 2015, having conducted extensive evaluations and already handed out a lot of offers. What do you see as the biggest needs from a position/role standpoint for UNC in 2015 and who of those offered does UNC have the best shot at as of now?
Evan Daniels: I think UNC should have two priorities with its 2015 class. One being add a perimeter threat. I would think since they swung and missed on adding a shooter in 2014 that they would want to add a knock down guy in 2015. But their offer list doesn't add up to that. It appears they are looking more for an overall scorer than just a primary shooter. Their other priority should be to add a post presence. They have offers out to Stephen Zimmerman, Diamond Stone, Ivan Rabb and Chase Jeter. I think they are looking to pick up two of those four.
As far as whom they have the best shot at reeling in, I'd go with Brandon Ingram. He's from the state of North Carolina, where UNC is always tough to beat. Plus he goes to school at Kinston (N.C.) High, which is the same school that Reggie Bullock played at .
Rob Harrington: It's no secret Roy Williams wants to land an elite interior scorer. All of his best teams at UNC have featured at least one, and at this juncture none appear to be on the roster. Diamond Stone is the top priority and likes them early, but of course they have to prove they can close with an almost certain one-and-done recruit. Meanwhile, they still need a shooter and apart from Luke Kennard (longshot), that player hasn't truly emerged. But Brandon Ingram is one to monitor and certainly is a pretty good shooter, if not a great one. He has demonstrated significant recent improvement and, being from Kinston, you'd have to think Carolina has a great chance.
Brian Snow: If it is me I would look for a post player with length and then also assuming P.J. Hairston doesn't return another shooter on the wing. When looking at the UNC depth chart, it gets light on the wing without Hairston, unless J.P. Tokoto takes a huge step forward this year, which is of course possible. Still I would think you would want to add another shooter to stretch defenses and open up driving lanes for the talented point guards as well as Pinson.
Also down low guys like Kennedy Meeks and Joel James are big wide bodies, but neither is a great shot blocker. A long and athletic post who can run the floor, block shots, and finish above the rim would be a good complement to those two players.
National publications that poll college coaches don't have Roy Williams in the top echelon of recruiters anymore. There have been significant recruiting misses in recent years, but this week he is signing three high caliber prospects. Why do you think college coaches have that opinion, and where do you put Williams as a recruiter against the rest of the country?
Evan Daniels: Over the past few years, North Carolina has recruited solidly, but in general they've missed out on a decent amount of elite level recruits. So that's probably where this tag gets throw around. But, if you look at the numbers, what Williams has accomplished is impressive. Since 2010 and not including this 2014 class, Roy Williams has reeled in 13 top 100 prospects and five five-star recruits. Harrison Barnes and James McAdoo were the only top 10 guys in that span.
I think at this point John Calipari has established himself as the top recruiter. But Bill Self is certainly on his heels. After those two there's a big group of coaches you could throw in the mix and I think based on the numbers Williams is probably in that group.
Rob Harrington: Those anonymous polls lack much value, in my opinion. They're popularity contests to a great extent, and if anything I think that tells you that other coaches are dismissive or envious of Roy Williams more for personal reasons. There's a widely held belief that UNC recruits itself, and from that standpoint it's almost impossible for any coach to receive credit for a strong class. The results speak for themselves — and to be clear, on an objective basis Carolina hasn't recruited as well recently as Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, et al — but his track record and this class merit inclusion on that list somewhere. It's fair to question why the Tar Heels haven't been able to sign top-five elites during the past four classes, but few schools can. They remain very formidable, if not at peak level as they were in the ‘00s.
Brian Snow: This is interesting, the vibe I have gotten is coaches more fear the Carolina brand than they do Roy Williams. Coaches fear going against John Calipari on the recruiting trail, and to an extent also guys like Thad Matta, Sean Miller, and Bill Self. However I don't think they feel that Williams is a true "go getter" on the recruiting trail any longer. Of course the Carolina brand name more than sells itself, and there is nothing you can do to beat Carolina a lot of the time as an opposing coach, but I wouldn't say coaches fear Roy Williams.
Personally I think Roy Williams has a niche and can be a very effective recruiter. He isn't someone who is going to really offer too early and be there every minute with a text or call, but he does have a charm to him that a lot of parents like, and obviously he is selling an excellent product and knows how to do it effectively.