Carolina gets first look at 'Femi'

MILFORD, Del. - North Carolina assistant coach Fred Quartlebaum made the trip all the way to Delaware and couldn't have come away enamored with new target Oluwafemi "Femi" Ibikunle. However, he may have found a worthy big man from the Class of 2003 – one that Tar Heels fans are somewhat familiar with.

It wasn't exactly Femi's fault that he only scored four points in New Hampton's (N.H.) 62-51 victory over Coastal Christian (Va.) on Saturday morning at the War on the Shore. New Hampton is the same school that produced current UNC freshman Rashad McCants.

The 6-8 1/2, 250-pound big man only took four shots the entire game despite fighting for – and establishing – position in the low post numerous times. His teammates failed to deliver him the ball, but Ibikunle didn't get frustrated – instead he used his high-energy to get up and down the court and make it difficult for the opposition to score.

Ibikunle was active in the early going, grabbing a handful of rebounds before getting into foul trouble and sitting on the bench for much of the second half.

Ibikunle is a defensive standout. He rebounds well on both ends of the floor, is extremely aggressive and has a work ethic on the court that is somewhat reminiscent of Ousmane Cisse. While his offensive game is still raw, he does possess a quality drop-step that he was unable to showcase in his brief time on the court on Saturday.

"His greatest attribute is his aggressiveness and intensity as he goes for offensive and defensive rebounds," One Division I assistant coach said after watching him on Saturday. "That can carry him a long way. But he needs to be a low-post presence and develop a jump hook or a turnaround to balance out his athleticism. I think he'll be a high major Division I kid because what he brings to the table will definitely help a team."

Ibikunle said he has been getting plenty of mail lately from the UNC staff. Other schools that seem to be serious include Cincinnati, Memphis, Louisville, Iowa and Villanova.

"I'm happy about all the schools recruiting me, but when I saw the first North Carolina package, I was like ‘UNC, me, not me,'" he said. "I was really surprised that they were interested in me because I used to watch them on TV when I was in Nigeria."

Another name to add to the short list of frontline candidates that could fill the void left when Brian Butch and David Padgett spurned the Tar Heels is former Albany Dougherty (Ga.) star Alexander Johnson, a one-time UNC recruit who has backed off his verbal commitment to Georgia.

"He's wide open," said Bridgton assistant Al Lewis. "The teams that have shown interest recently are Alabama, Indiana and Louisville."

Actually, it may have been the Bulldogs who have backed off Johnson for similar reasons that UNC stopped recruiting him last year. Johnson is spending this season at Bridgton Academy in Maine in an effort to raise both his GPA and test score to be eligible as a freshman.

The Crimson Tide appear to be the early leader, but there's a good chance that the Tar Heels could get into the mix – if they feel Johnson's academics have improved in his time at Bridgton.

Johnson scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 21 foul-plagued minutes in a 53-51 win over Life Center Academy (N.J.). He displayed more versatility than usual after picking up three early fouls and being forced to settle for the perimeter shot. He was 4-for-5 from beyond the three-point arc.

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