UNC assistant coach Gunter Brewer was visiting North Moore High School before Camaron Thomas was even getting questionnaires from most schools. Even when John Bunting announced on Feb. 6 that the Tar Heels already had a big commitment for 2005; still, few knew Thomas' name despite the fact he had verbally committed right after attending the Virginia basketball game at the Smith Center on Jan. 24.
And according to Mustangs coach Bryan Lee, UNC had officially offered Thomas over a month before.
But the cat's out of the bag now, and the wolves are circling.
"You wouldn't believe how many calls I get," Lee said. "I spoke to a N.C. State recruiter today, who said to me, ‘How did we miss him?' And I told him, ‘Coach Brewer, and under Coach Bunting's guidance, I presume.'
"The [UNC] staff was very aggressive," said Lee. "They made no bones about it, they saw what they liked, did some research and watched some film, and well, they just beat everybody to the punch.
"And they did it the right way. They were honest. Coach Brewer does not negative recruit. I've had a couple of guys come in here and say why he shouldn't [go to UNC], and that's crap; you don't do that."
Lee said he sent a lot of information to ACC schools last year, but the Tar Heel coaches were the first to respond.
"Florida State, Kansas, Nebraska, Miami, Indiana, and Duke all wanted to know more about him," Lee told The Insiders' Miller Safrit following his commitment. "Miami said he was one of the top three defensive tackles they had seen this year, so they were very interested in him."
But Thomas said he was not about to stray too far from home, or play for any team that didn't have Brewer on the sidelines.
"He is a really funny guy, and like an older brother for me," Thomas said of Brewer.
At defensive tackle, Thomas led his team with 50 tackles and, at fullback, rushed for 600 yards and six touchdowns. A tenacious rebounder and solid scorer, Thomas also provides a spatial post presence on the Mustangs' basketball team.
Thomas, who said he expects to play on the defensive line at Carolina, is 6-foot-4-and-a-half, weighs 312 pounds and was last timed at the Nike Camp at Virginia at approximately 5.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash. However, Lee says he's clocked him at 4.9.
"Our goal is to get him down to 4.8 seconds," Lee said. "We'll have him out conditioning all summer."
"My No. 1 goals are to get stronger and faster," Thomas added. "I'm not where I want to be completely with speed and power."
But size is not an issue; Thomas' hands are as big as catcher's mitts, and at 17 years old, his shoe size matches his age. Doctors project him to reach a height of 6-foot-7 when he finally stops growing. Although most recruiting experts believe he does need to lose a few pounds, he is now down from an earlier weight of 335 pounds.
Thomas with Coach Lee
Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow to learn more about the tough road Thomas had growing up and how he's built his strong character, in spite of a life full of adversity that he has had to overcome.
Senior writer Andy Britt is in his second year with Inside Carolina. His work has appeared in newspapers across the country such as The Raleigh News & Observer, The Chapel Hill News, The State (Columbia, S.C.), The Seattle Times, The Houston Chronicle and The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. He can be reached at email@example.com.