Huge Hoops Recruiting Weekend

While the majority of the focus on campus this weekend will be the football opener against Wisconsin, this will also be an important few days for Carolina basketball.

The Tar Heels will make their pitch to four elite hoops recruits this weekend. With commitments already from the nation's top point guard (Tywon Lawson and shooting guard (Wayne Ellington), as well as an in-state standout forward (William Graves), Roy Williams and his staff are eying the final pieces to the puzzle.

"North Carolina is probably a player or two away from essentially locking itself up for playing for another national championship," said leading national recruiting analyst Dave Telep, of Scout.com.

The visiting recruits will be in attendance at Kenan Stadium on Saturday night for the UNC-Wisconsin football game, and will also witness the return of the entire 2005 national title team, who will all be present to receive their championship rings at halftime.

"This is what North Carolina has sold for the last 30 years -- the idea of the Carolina basketball family," Telep said. "So when you put an event like this together, obviously there's a reason this happens the same weekend the recruits are in town. It tends to be a very big selling point."

Spencer Hawes is perhaps the most important recruit of the group. A 6-11 post player from Seattle (Wash.) Prep, ranked No. 3 overall by Scout.com in the senior class, Hawes has cut his list down to just three schools - UNC, Stanford (who will get a visit the weekend after the Chapel Hill trip) and hometown Washington.

"Hawes is the best low post scorer in the class of 2006 -- bar none," Telep said. "He's the most skilled guy over 6-10 that we've seen in a while. I'm sure UNC's line of thought is that packaging Hawes and Tyler Hansbrough together would create one of the best front lines college basketball has seen in a few years. He's essentially the biggest remaining piece to the next championship puzzle.

"I think it goes without saying that if Hawes commits after this weekend, it'd solidify UNC as a national championship contender very early in his career at Carolina."

While perhaps not at as critical a position need for the Tar Heels, Thaddeus Young is just as talented. The Memphis (Tenn.) Mitchell Road star is a sure-fire All-American and the prototypical small forward, ranked No. 7 overall by Scout.com.

"I've always throught of Young as a luxury recruit for UNC once they got Wayne Ellington," Telep said. "Thaddeus has size, athleticism and would give them another professional wing option. He's just that talented.

"I think North Carolina and Thaddeus Young is a situation where the rich could get much richer -- whereas Hawes could be vital to them taking the next step. Young would certainly greatly impact the program, but it's different than adding a 6-11 skilled big man.

"He's a big time player and at North Carolina he'd be surrounded by other guys at each spot. You take UNC with Thaddeus Young, and down the road you'd start Lawson at the 1, Ellington at the 2, Young at the 3 and Hawes and Hansbrough in the post -- I don't think you could name a better starting five in America than those guys right there, not to mention all the other talented players on their roster. It's silly to think that Roy Williams could throw out five guys like that. You talk about the 2005 team being so talented? Put those five guys on the same floor together and see what happens."

That's not to say that Alex Stepheson isn't an important recruit for the Tar Heels. The 6-9 big man will make the trip to Chapel Hill from North Hollywood, Calif. Ranked No. 58 in the class by Scout.com, Stepheson already has the strength and athleticism to contribute early at the college level, if not start.

"Stepheson is good enough to start for a ton of high major programs and he could eventually start at North Carolina, too," Telep said. "If you're UNC, at some point you'll need to develop some depth on the frontcourt and a guy like Stepheson would provide great depth."

The fourth big-name recruit in town is a rising junior, and an example of the Carolina staff looking ahead to the following recruiting class. Julian Vaughn has already visited a number of ACC campuses, with an impressive list of scholarship offers, and will now check out Chapel Hill. Ranked No. 19 in the class of 2007 by Scout.com, he showed his versatility this past summer.

"One college coach summed up Julian Vaughn to me as 6-9, can play inside or facing the basket, has great grades and is the kind of person you want to bring into your program. Since he lives in Reston, Va. -- that means the ACC is going to go to war over him."

UNC's committed 2006 recruits -- Lawson, Graves and Ellington -- will also expected be in attendance this weekend.

Stay tuned to Inside Carolina for a full post-visit report at the end of the weekend.

Check out video highlights, photos, scouting reports and more about each of the recruits in town, as well as the rest of UNC's recruiting targets, by visiting INSIDE CAROLINA's BASKETBALL RECRUITING CENTRAL.


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