Massenburg Tries To Make The Grade

Roanoke Rapids first-team all-state defensive end Darrius Massenburg returned from his official visit last weekend firmly committed to North Carolina, as well as his academics.

"I really liked it," Darrius Massenburg said. "[The coaches] showed us how the offenses and defenses were run. My mother was very interested in the academic side, and they spent a lot of time on that."

While his mother met with UNC coaches and teachers, Massenburg hung out with childhood friend Kentwan Balmer and Bryon Bishop.

"They just showed us a good time while we were there," Massenburg said. "I knew that was going to happen anyway, but I was glad that my mom had a good time, too."

But the new regime at East Carolina led by first-year head coach Skip Holtz and assistant head coach Donnie Thompson, an assistant at UNC from 1989-2000, have been campaigning as Massenburg's alternative choice, should he fail to qualify academically at UNC.

Roanoke Rapids coach Tim Bennett doesn't believe that will happen and Massenburg is also open to the prep route at Hargrave. However, according to Bennett, the ECU coaches appear to be pushing the Prop 48 option as well as the chance to play right away with the Pirates – a combined 3-20 over the past two seasons.

"East Carolina has tried to come in, and they've been recruiting him a little bit, and I don't know where that is at right now," Bennett said. "I spoke with [Darius] on Tuesday and he said he was comfortable at North Carolina and was excited about going there.

"Right now, he's committed to North Carolina. I think it's a solid commitment."

Bennett said Massenburg knows what he has to achieve in the classroom and the goal is attainable. He just has to continue to work hard and see it through.

"I know he has a plan in place," Bennett said. "I think he has a good chance to make it. There are some things in place now that maybe weren't in place earlier."

Bennett said Massenburg did extremely well in his first semester this year and has assurances from Massenburg's teachers and family that he is working hard this semester.

"It's all up to him, because he's got to finish the semester out," Bennett said. "But I think he's doing a good job and he's working extremely hard on his studies. I think he's got a good chance to make it.

"There are a couple other plans in place, but the first plan is with North Carolina."

And apparently, so is the second.

"Like I told my mom – worst case scenario and I didn't make it – I would still go to Hargrave," Massenburg said. "[UNC] is a good school, and if I have to go to Hargrave, I'll go to Hargrave."

Thompson is expected to help East Carolina improve its in-state recruiting, but it doesn't look like he'll sway Massenburg. The Pirates appear to be his third option at best. However, that was enough to land former Tar Heel signee Marcus Hands, who failed to qualify at UNC even after a year at Hargrave in 2003-04.

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