Names such as Wesley Green, Byron Joynes, Warren Scott and Rashaun Bryant have been tossed around in the past, but there clearly is a big drop-off from Butch and Padgett to the next tier of big men. Chris Taft is arguably the next best prospect, but his academic situation is unclear and he's also considering nearly a dozen other schools. The Tar Heels staff backed off Major Wingate, but the former Florence Wilson (S.C.) big man, who is now at North Gwinnett High (Ga.) living with his uncle, could be the next-best frontcourt player on the board if other players start committing. UNC also backed off guys like Hassan Fofana and Darryl Watkins a while ago.
Ekene Ibekwe is clearly an intriguing prospect, but he'd rather sit out on the perimeter and let trifectas fly than work on his inside game. Plus, it appears as though USC (where his father went) is the odds-on favorite. Local star P.J. Tucker is an incredible workhorse underneath the hoop and plays much bigger than his 6-5 1/2 frame, but will that translate to the ACC?
One of those who has burst onto the scene this summer is 6-10 1/2 Courtney Sims, whose future appeared to lie on the tennis court as recently as two years ago. Sims may have already established himself as one of the top 10 frontcourt players in the country still on the board.
Sims is an athletic big man who can run the court, block shots and also has a versatile offensive game. He has great perimeter skills for a player his size, but also displayed some quality low-post moves this summer with BABC.
"Other than a couple of big guys, he's as good – if not better – than anyone left," said one Division I assistant coach. "This just isn't a good class and that makes a kid like him even more valuable."
The 222-pound Sims, who had offers from William & Mary and Rhode Island heading into this past summer, now has defending champion Maryland, Syracuse, UConn, Memphis, Boston College and Michigan among those who have put forth an offer.
North Carolina coach Matt Doherty tried to call Sims on Wednesday, but was unable to reach the Noble & Greenough (Mass.) standout. Assistant coach Doug Wojcik has been in touch with Sims' high school coach, Michael Herring.
"They really wanted to see if they had a legitimate shot rather than spinning their wheels and wasting their time and money," Herring said of the UNC coaching staff, who have watched Sims at several events this summer. "To me, when North Carolina calls, anyone should perk up."
While Herring seemed intrigued by the Tar Heels, Sims didn't appear to be fazed by the interest.
"Doherty called but I was at a game," Sims said. "He said he'd call me later, though."
The problem for the Tar Heels is that they have some catching up to do. Sims has already taken unofficial visits in the past week to UConn and Providence and he is scheduled to visit BC on Monday.
Sims has also scheduled official visits to Michigan (Sept. 7) and Syracuse (Sept. 13) and plans to set one up with Maryland for later in September.
"I might just take those three and not take any more visits," he said. "I don't think I need to take officials to the local schools."
Sims has made no secret of his desire to remain in the New England area.
"I think I still want to stay close to home," he said. "But anything can happen. But I'm still leaning to staying close to home. If I really, really like the school enough maybe I'll go, but it would have to be amazing."
The bottom line is that if by chance North Carolina can't get a commitment from Butch, Padgett or a guy like Sims, the Tar Heels could be in a similar predicament that they found themselves in a year ago when they were forced to go with a pair of unheralded project-types in Byron Sanders and Damion Grant.