It’s given birth to homegrown recruits dubbing it as the “Hoop State.”
“We’ve got really good players and everyone is finding out about us,” said Edrice Adebayo, one of three N.C. natives ranked in the top 15 of the class of 2016. “There’s a lot of talent here.”
Adebayo, who will hold off making a college decision until his senior season, is one of four in-state high school players with a UNC offer (Brandon Ingram, Harry Giles, Dennis Smith Jr.).
Early in their high school careers, no one in the freshman and sophomore classes has yet to distinguish themselves to that extent.
Events like last Saturday's second annual N.C. Top 80 afford an opportunity to stand out, and several underclassmen took it.
Malik Johnson (pictured above.), a 2018 point guard from Fayetteville (N.C.) Terry Sanford, could follow in the footsteps of fellow Cumberland County product Smith Jr. At 6-0, Johnson has low center of gravity, with an unusual combination of strength, speed and quickness for his age.
Coby White, a 6-2 guard from Wilson (N.C.) Greenfield, is another 2018 product who fared well at the camp. White looks the part of a terrific shooter and potential dynamite scorer, and showed his range throughout the camp.
Others who stood out: Rechon Black (2018) from Concord (N.C.) High School, Aaron Cash (2018) from Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God, and Jude Akubeze (201) from Raleigh (N.C.) Prominence Academy.
"I think what we're observing unfold within the state is a preponderance of depth in the underclasses,” said Scout's National Recruiting Analyst, Rob Harrington. “There's a multitude of sophomores and freshmen who have showcased high-major potential but also could end up outside a major conference if they don't develop.”
"I'd say what's missing is the star power we've observed in recent years,” he continued. “It was obvious at the final Carolina Challenge that freshmen Harry Giles and Edrice Adebayo could be stars. Dennis Smith would develop later, but Giles and Adebayo provided a measuring stick by which to compare others.”
Getting talented players from North Carolina to attend UNC has long been a stated goal of Roy Williams and his staff.
The Tar Heels signed the state’s top-ranked player in 2013 (Isaiah Hicks) and 2014 (Theo Pinson). They are a finalist for Ingram, the top player in 2015, and has a verbal commitment from the No. 2 ranked NC player in 2015 – Luke Maye.
Since arriving at North Carolina in 2003-04, Williams has signed nine players from North Carolina. With so many underclassmen that could potentially be high-major prospects, Williams and his staff could have an opportunity to load up on talent without going too far from Chapel Hill.
“College coaches, including UNC, will have to evaluate sharply and spend more time purely on watching players than pursuing established targets,” said Harrington.
Coby White (photos by Brad Richard)
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