Signing Day Roundtable

As the faxes arrive early Wednesday morning, North Carolina will officially complete a three-man recruiting class that is ranked in the Top 10 nationally. For some expert analysis and perspective, Inside Carolina talked to Dave Telep of and Rob Harrington of

Where do you rank this signing class for UNC and how would you evaluate it overall?

Telep: "Right now we have it ranked nationally at No. 6. There were a lot of good classes in terms of frontcourt depth and so I think most of the Top 10 classes are defined by the frontcourts. UNC is no exception. When you pair up Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller, you've got two guys that are going to be big-time impact players at North Carolina and then you have a very, solid steady point guard in Larry Drew. Mix it all together and you have another Top 10 class for UNC and one they worked to get. They missed a handful of key targets early, turned up the urgency and worked hard to get this class. This was not the easiest class Roy Williams has assembled – a lot of work went into this one."

Harrington: "It's a Top 10 class, certainly. Maybe it'll make it into the Top 5. It's a very good class. By any realistic expectations – and that's the key word – it's a very successful class worthy of a program like North Carolina that needed a good year. It doesn't address all their needs, but it takes care of most of them and all three signees are high level ACC talents."

Do you think this class adequately addressed UNC's needs?

Telep: "I think overall this class is going to go a long ways to replenishing some of the frontcourt firepower they'll lose. These are two guys who are different and can play off each other -- Zeller and Davis addressed their post needs. I think in a perfect world they'd have liked to come away with an off guard who can give them some backcourt pop, but it didn't happen and is already something they're working on for 2009."

Harrington: "Certainly they had a big need at point guard and even if Larry Drew is not the All-American we all assumed he'd be last year at this time, he was still their top target and he's still a proven playmaker-distributor with a terrific basketball pedigree. The frontcourt obviously is how this class will be remembered, ultimately getting two Top 20 guys – and arguably Top 10. That just continues the likely success they've had playing inside-out basketball. Both Davis and Zeller are efficient scorers, so they fit very well from that perspective. I'd say there's one thing missing from the class and one potential issue for later. The one thing clearly missing is a wing scorer and someone who can create his own shot facing the basket. That was Jrue Holiday/Iman Shumpert – that was that guy. The other thing that could become an issue later is that Zeller and Davis are thin, more finesse players and somewhere in there they'll need to complement those guys with a stronger, more aggressive banger. Stepheson should be there early on for this class' career to serve that role, but after that, they will have to have one enforcer."

What common attributes do you see across these three signees?

Telep: "Zeller's brother was a McDonald's All-American, Drew and Davis both have fathers who played in the NBA. I think if you want to put together a theme for these guys, it's that their hoops lineage is strong."

Harrington: "Skill and intelligence. This isn't the raw athleticism that you'll see in other elite classes, while some others are predicated more on strength. This is a smart, intelligent group of guys coming in. There's no athletic project. They all process the game well, they all boast versatile skills, and they're all unselfish."

UNC still managed a Top 10 class, but the Heels seemed to miss on more targets than usual. To what do you attribute that?

Telep: "A lot of it is just the cost of doing business at that level. With this recruiting class there was a hint that North Carolina was on pace for the top class in the country. A lot of people agree they were really close on Delvon Roe and Samardo Samuels and they wound up not getting either of those guys. And they lost them to two Hall of Fame coaches in Tom Izzo (Michigan State) and Rick Pitino (Louisville). Two years ago they won almost every single battle – sometimes the numbers catch up to you when you're recruiting at that level."

Harrington: "I'd say there were two primary factors. First would be, even though it's a couple years removed from the class of 2006, there's still not obvious playing time at some positions. Playing time being as critical as it is, that certainly had an effect. The other factor I think is just pure dumb luck – that the geography of the best players in 2008 is not favorable for UNC. You had Ed Davis nearby, but by and large there were no point guards in the area, and the combo guard scorers were in California and areas of the Midwest again and somewhat the Northeast. The mid-Atlantic was lacking in this class. Outside of Ty Walker, there wasn't that geographic fit and that plays a big factor – people rarely talk about it but it makes a big difference. When you're only talking about signing no more than a handful of guys, it's a fluke if so few are good in your greater area. If you're at an elite school, you have to be willing to track guys down and if you have a pipeline there you might as well use it. And the Walker commitment happened much earlier than expected and they ended up getting a guy more highly regarded in Zeller."

Which of the signees do you expect to make the biggest immediate impact and why?

Telep: "My gut reaction is that I believe Ed Davis has a lot more room to grow with his game and at the end of the day he'll be the most ready to come in and really compete right off the bat. But I can't envision a scenario where somehow he and Zeller didn't find their way on to the court. Their roles will surely expand as sophomores, but these are two high level frontcourt players. We're talking the No. 3 and No. 4 power forwards in the country."

Harrington: "This is based more on just how they would contribute in an open situation, because it'll depend on who's still there. If Lawson leaves, then Larry Drew's in a situation where he can play right away to some extent. And if all the big guys are back, you wouldn't expect much from the freshmen. If all things are equal, I'd probably go with Davis because he's the most comfortable in a variety of situations. None of the three are there yet physically, but Davis can get away with it a little bit because he can be a forward/power forward and has ways to compensate for his lack of bulk. Defensively Zeller is a ways away and in a halfcourt set on offense he'll have to get better at bullying his way to the basket a bit more."

What are UNC's biggest needs now in recruiting the Class of 2009?

Telep: "If you just look at what they did in ‘08, missing Holiday and Shumpert, that tells you they need to bring in another perimeter scoring threat. Dominic Cheek is a guy they are pressing all in on. He's a guy who is important to their program in 2009. I think they'll be a couple wings in that class and another guy who can give them a little combo look and help out at the point as well. There's room for all kinds of backcourt players."

Harrington: "I think they can afford to make it a Kevin Love year in the frontcourt – find one guy and go after him hard. Ideally they'll need a banger, but they could wait a year on that if they need to. But even with all those scholarships, they can just go for one frontcourt guy – no pressure there now. On the wing they'll need at least two and they either need to get a combo guard who can play the point or if they think Drew can be entrenched as the starter, they'll need to surround him with two guys who can score. Ideally they'll have someone who is effective at creating his own shot. They certainly have to have a shooter and they almost certainly have to have a shot-creater off the dribble. And they'd probably like to have someone who can be a combo guard to give them a little more flexibility defensively. If Drew can't gain weight, at his size, he might have some defensive problems – though I think he's a good defender overall. I think they'd want more options, which would require another ballhandler."

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