Intriguing prospect visits UNC

The Tar Heels have been looking around the country at the remaining heralded post players in the Class of 2003 -- and one of them sat courtside at the Smith Center on Monday night.

Want to know the worst kept secret in high school basketball? Well, do ya? Do ya?

He's Paulius Joneliunas, a 6-10, 240-pound forward from Roanoke (Va.) Catholic School.

Yeah -- that's right, Roanoke. The same city that produced Duke freshman sharpshooter, J.J. Redick and future Wahoo combo guard J.R. Reynolds. Only this kid isn't from Roanoke at all -- he's just spending his senior season there. And he spent Monday evening in Chapel Hill as the Tar Heels trounced Penn State.

The skilled post player was seen sitting behind the UNC bench and the Tar Heels definitely have in interest in the top 50 senior.

What? Hold on a minute, a top 50 senior?

Well, according to recruiting analyst Thom Jones, there aren't many better players in the class than Joneliunas. And unlike a lot of the other elite prospects in the country, Joneiunas wasn't able to boost his stock in the spring and summer tournaments -- because he wasn't in the U.S. yet. But he may be just as good as most. Maybe better.

Jones sure thinks pretty highly of him.

"He's pretty damn good," said Jones, who lives in the western part of Virginia -- not too far from Roanoke. "He's a smaller Vlade Divac," he added.

You see, the college coaches are all over the big Lithuanian -- even if the basketball media hasn't caught on yet. He's already received numerous scholarship offers from respectable programs such as SMU, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Richmond. And schools such as Indiana, Clemson, NC State, Kansas, and now, North Carolina, are probing for information on the unsigned big man who's got his grades in order as well.

The word on Joneliunas is that he's big, pretty strong, very skilled and definitely versatile. Jones endorses the reports:

"He's got both -- a face up game and a low post game. He can shoot the ball from 17-18 feet and he runs the floor real well. I liked him very much when I saw him workout. I think he's top fifty caliber."

Jones, however, cautions...

"Again, though, I haven't seen him against top caliber competition, so that's when the rubber will meet the road. But from what I saw, he looked very good."

We caught up with one mid-major college head coach who had seen him also, and he echoed Jones' sentiments.

"He's good. He may be better than people give him credit for too. He can certainly play in the ACC because he's able to shoot, handle and pass at his height and he can go down low and bang with the big guys as well. If I were the coach at an ACC level school, I'd offer him a scholarship and thank my lucky stars if I got him," said the coach anonymously, who's obviously not in the mix for the 18-year-old.

Joneliunas is currently living with Celtic women's coach Anne Bohon and her family. And sources close to the big guy indicate that he's being advised to hold off from making a commitment to any school at this time because it's widely belived that his college stock can only rise by playing out this season. Those same sources also believe that Dave Odom and South Carolina may already have a small edge in his recruitment.

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