Heels to add sixth player to '02 class?

The Tar Heels' stellar 2002 recruiting class has drawn raves. The five-man group of incoming freshmen next fall are ranked as high as No. 2 in the country. But just when it was thought that Coach Doherty was finished assembling the class -- <i>Inside Carolina</i> has learned that a sixth player appears likely to join the group.

On Tuesday night, Doherty was in Durham to watch the exciting Southern Durham/Hillside matchup. There were two juniors of note on the court, in Southern Durham's Anthony King and Hillside's Bobby Perry, who both put up double-doubles -- but Doherty was also watching David Noel.

Noel, a 6-5, 210-pound senior wing at Durham (N.C.) Southern, has already committed to the North Carolina football team, giving head coach John Bunting a commitment in late November.

Noel, who runs a 4.5 40-yard-dash and benches 280 pounds, was a coveted wide receiver, totaling over 1,000 yards this season and ranked as one of the best at his position in the state. He turned down offers from South Carolina, Virginia and N.C. State to play for the Tar Heels.

However, Noel told Inside Carolina on Wednesday that he's leaning toward playing strictly basketball at North Carolina.

He was in Chapel Hill on Monday, at the Smith Center, and spoke with the Carolina staff. According to Noel, Doherty expressed a strong interest in the Durham native to walk on to the team next season and that Doherty told him that he could see him getting some substantial playing time thereafter.

"He really wants me to walk on to the team next year," Noel said of Doherty, "and he told me that (if I decide to concentrate on hoops) that I'd get the scholarship the following season."

UNC has already used their five available '02 scholarships, but three grants are available the following year, and Noel could fill one of them.

"He's an incredible athlete," Dave Telep, of TheInsidersHoops.com, told IC. "There's a reason he was so highly recruited for football -- he's just a cadillac of an athlete. I've seen him get the ball on the perimeter, take two dribbles and takeoff. From an athleticism standpoint, he has few peers."

Basketball America's Michael Kruse had similar praise for Noel.

"He's an out-of-this-world athlete," Kruse said. "That much is blatantly clear. He skied for rebounds and dunks that made your jaw drop."

Telep added, "He can certainly do things off the drive and at this point is a streaky perimeter shooter. He could be one of those kids who, if he concentrates solely on basketball ... poof -- he's an ACC-level player."

Southern Durham head coach Levi Beckwith told IC that Noel was offered a basketball scholarship by South Carolina and had interest from several area schools, including ACC programs.

"He's an all-around player, very explosive to the basket," Beckwith said. "In fact, I think that's his strength as a basketball player. His ball-handling has improved and he's a real good passer. He knows how to feed the post real well. His outside shooting has also really improved over the last year and the kid is a really good student, having a GPA of over 3.0"

Current averages weren't available for Noel, but Beckwith estimated 19-20 points, six rebounds and about four assists.

"I feel that I see the court real well," Noel said. "I'm a good passer and I play hard. In fact, I play hard ALL THE TIME."

Tar Heel signee Rashad McCants played against Noel in AAU ball.

"He's a pretty good player -- he can get rebounds and score," McCants said. "He can definitely help us."

(Jeff Goodman contributed to this report.)

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