RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina offered Jairus Hamilton a year ago, but the Concord (N.C.) Cannon junior has noted a recent increase in attention from the Tar Heel staff.
There was no better example of that than Roy Williams attending two of Hamilton’s games over an eight-day span. Williams watched Hamilton’s 33-point, 13-rebound, 5-assist performance at the Chick-fil-A Classic in Columbia, S.C. on Dec. 22, and then saw him again on Dec. 29 at the John Wall Holiday Invitational in Raleigh, N.C. for his 18-point, 7-rebound outing against powerhouse Hillcrest Prep.
And, according to a source close to the situation, Hamilton is expected to be back in Chapel Hill on Saturday night for UNC’s rivalry clash with NC State.
“It’s ramped up, they’re really trying to stress me on figuring out what I really want and what I’m looking for in a school,” Hamilton said. “I hear from them all the time. They really stress me as a priority in their recruiting class. Mostly I hear from assistant coach Steve Robinson, but I hear from Coach Williams a lot as well, and sometimes from C.B. (McGrath).
“They feel I’d be a perfect fit there, so I’ve just got to start taking my time and sit down with my coach and family and figure out what’ll be the best fit for me.”
Hamilton isn’t yet showing any urgency to move forward with his recruitment. He’s had that Tar Heel offer since January of last year, and speaks of a current timeline that wouldn’t accelerate until next fall.
“UNC, Kansas, NC State, Duke, Arizona, Cal, Wake, Maryland, Virginia Tech – those are the schools I’m looking at hardest right now,” he said. “Really just looking for a place I can contribute immediately, play my role in the system, and hopefully be a really good team and increase my stock.”
That stock is likely already rising after strong showings in the two December holiday tournaments against national competition, averaging 31.3 points at the Chick-fil-A Classic and 20.3 points at the Holiday Invitational.
Hamilton’s style of play has been best compared to a “downhill” runner in football, an aggressive driver that goes straight ahead, in his case taking a direct path to the rim. But the improvement in Hamilton’s game in recent months has been about becoming a more well rounded player and is evident in his improved skill – particularly his jump shot - and understanding of the game.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth,” said Cannon head coach Ché Roth. “We laid out a development plan for him as far as seeing where he was last year as a sophomore… His shot has really improved. His versatility has really improved. His feel for the game has improved. His stroke has definitely improved. But the biggest thing is the intangibles he’s got now. Now he’s got more of a feel, he’s more of a vocal leader.
“We’re playing through him – running stuff through him – because he’s an exceptional passer. I don’t know that there is a ceiling for him – a kid that’s 6-8, 230 pounds that’s as explosive as he is. I don’t think there are any kind of limitations you can put on that, with his size at this age. Obviously he wants to continue to improve his footwork, stroke, and handles, but the biggest thing is he’s willing to do that because he’s always in the gym, he’s exceptionally competitive, he’s very coachable. And he’s his own worst critic. My job is a lot easier when you’ve got your best player who wants to take on the biggest challenges.”