CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 18 Duke’s recent revolving door of one-and-done recruits provides a sharp contrast to No. 8 North Carolina’s veteran approach, albeit not one that Roy Williams intended.
“Well, it’s not by design,” Williams told reporters on his ACC teleconference call on Monday. “All of the guys that they’ve got, we tried to recruit also. There’s no question about that. We’ve been in a time period here where it’s been difficult for us to get the top-10, top-20 recruit.”
The 14th-year UNC head coach noted that his staff signed 26 McDonald’s All-Americans in his first 10 years back in Chapel Hill. Over the last three years, there has only been one: current freshman center Tony Bradley.
UNC’s junior class boasts three McDonald’s All-Americans – point guard Joel Berry and wings Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson – all of whom committed by May 2013. A year later, the NCAA reopened its 2011 investigation into academic irregularities into the school’s AFAM department.
“And then when the junk started, since then, there’s been a lot of negative recruiting, there’s been a lot of questions out there and it’s been harder for us to get those kinds of kids,” Williams said. “I’m not against [one-and-dones]. We’ve had Marvin Williams and Brandan Wright. I would love to have those guys again today. I would take them right now.”
Since May 2013, UNC has missed on its last 32 top-25 prospects, according to Scout.com’s rankings. Bradley’s final ranking was No. 26, while current signee Jalek Felton is No. 27.
Seven Duke signees are on that list, including five Blue Devils that will suit up against the Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor on Thursday night: Harry Giles, Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden and Chase Jeter.
“I saw Jayson Tatum play many, many times and I saw Harry Giles play many, many times, but it’s just the way that it happened,” Williams said. “… It’s been harder for us to get past the negative recruiting, harder for us to get some families past the stuff that’s been going on, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”
That much is true. Since the NCAA reopened its investigation, UNC (34) trails only Virginia (36) for the most ACC wins over the past three seasons.
“The kids we’ve gotten are good players, I just want to make that clear,” Williams said. “We haven’t been able to get the top-five, top-10, top-20 recruit, but they’re very good players and when they do stay around, they get more experienced and are able to understand things a lot more. Like I said, there’s two, three, four, five different ways to do it, I guess.”
While UNC's most recent classes may be short on elite talent, it's junior and senior classes include five McDonald's All-Americans. Only when that talent departs will the true consequences of errant recruiting pitches be evident.
UNC is in the mix for one final 2017 top-25 recruit in five-star wing Kevin Knox, who is set to officially visit next weekend for the Virginia game.
Sherrell McMillan contributed to this story.