AAU tournaments are taking place all over the country, including events hosted by the three major shoe companies – Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.
For North Carolina specifically, it’s a critical live period as Roy Williams and his staff are looking to firm up their position among elites in the class of 2016, as well as discover new targets in the classes of 2017 and 2018.
Scout National Analyst Rob Harrington and Inside Carolina’s Sherrell McMillan discussed the significance of this coming weekend and some of the storylines they’ll be tracking...
Given the team's needs along with other factors, which players do you view as the most urgent targets for UNC in the 2016 cycle?
Harrington: Clearly, the in-state products have to rank very high on the priorities list. Not only are Harry Giles, Dennis Smith and Edrice Adebayo native Tar Heels, of course, they all project as very likely McDonald's All-Americans next year. Giles arguably is the top overall prospect in the class and Smith arguably the best point guard. Moreover, all three complement each other and thus theoretically could play for the same team. In addition to their actual value to the program, there's immense symbolic value in the Heels maintaining their historical dominance for the state's best prospects.
McMillan: Let's look at the same issue a little differently. Should North Carolina miss late or drop out of the recruitments of any of these players, it has to have replacements in place. Some of the players UNC has watched but not offered a scholarship could up being more important than even Giles, Smith and Adebayo. Consider the secondary prospects UNC procured in 2008, Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller. It’ll be interesting to see how much attention the Tar Heels pay to players like that.
How can the coaching staff address the program's need not only for elite talent, but also a large number of bodies given the impending graduation losses?
Harrington: This one is tricky and speaks to the issues recruiting the 2015 class. Getting either Brandon Ingram or Jaylen Brown late would be huge for multiple reasons; one being that it would alleviate at least a little pressure on the coaching staff this spring. They face the challenge of recruiting starters and backups in the same cycle, something they did successfully with the 2006 class but haven't had to attempt frequently since then. My guess is they'll be more aggressive with scholarship offers — and they've already taken steps in that direction — this month and try to wrap up at least one player before July, even if it isn't a top target.
McMillan: It’s difficult to wrap your head around now, but UNC could be losing as many as five scholarship players at the end of the 2015-16 season and then at least four more the following year. Non-traditional routes such as players from overseas, transfers and graduate transfers could help complement the Tar Heels’ immediate need for bodies.
The 2016 class obviously looms as the most immediate need, but underclassman priorities remain a factor as well. How do you expect the coaching staff to balance its approach?
Harrington: Frankly, I don't think sophomores will receive much attention early in the evaluation period, other than the already-committed Jalek Felton and others close to an offer, potentially such as point guard Matt Coleman. Some teams will feature a blend of relevant juniors and underclassmen, so that will enable the staff to juggle multiple priorities. Still, they may have to move more methodically with the 2017 haul until they get a couple pledges from 2016.
McMillan: North Carolina knows that Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks will depart after the 2016-17 season. Even if the Tar Heels sign two big men in 2016, it will still only have three on the roster (Luke Maye). So, securing a top big man and guard seem like the top priorities for Williams and his staff. Coleman, DeAndre Ayton, Wendell Carter and Austin Wiley have already gotten in-person viewings from UNC. It’s possible one or two receive a longer look from the Tar Heels and an offer during the spring. Other targets will likely have to wait until some headway is made on the class of 2016.
Harry Giles (2016) - CP3
Jayson Tatum (2016) – St. Louis Eagles
Tony Bradley (2016) – E1T1
Malik Monk (2016) – Wings Elite
V.J. King (2016) – Team Takeover
Brandon Robinson (2016) – Georgia Stars
Matt Coleman (2017) - Boo Williams
Wendell Carter (2017) – Georgia Stars
Edrice Adebayo (2016) – Team Loaded NC
Dennis Smith Jr. (2016) – Team Loaded NC
Kobi Simmons (2016) – Atlanta Celtics
Braxton Blackwell (2016) – Atlanta Celtics
Austin Wiley (2017) – Alabama Challenge
|New Orleans (Under Armour)||
Seventh Woods (2016) - Carolina Wolves
Jalek Felton (2017) – Team Felton