He will, however, have to work extremely hard the rest of this school year in order to be academically eligible to enroll at UNC this fall.
"He needs to be committed to the classroom, first and foremost," Laney head coach Chuck Martin said. "He must get classroom [requirements] out of the way as far as all of the core classes and making the good grades."
He is not behind, but Hands is placing nearly all of his emphasis on his remaining high school courses. He is currently taking Physical Science and Biology, with English IV, World History and Algebra II looming on the spring horizon.
Hands is also awaiting the results of his Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).
"He needs to keep his nose to the grindstone," Martin said. "He's got some hard classes coming up, as a lot of seniors do. Obviously, when you're taking Algebra II and some of the science classes that are required, chemistry, lab classes, foreign language, you've got to be committed to the classroom."
Although plenty of challenges lie ahead for the talented 18-year old, they are ones he believes he is both equal to and familiar with.
"People told me I couldn't make it, and that really bothered me," Hands said. "Finally, I realized that I have to work hard to get to where I want to be."
Hands has had to overcome doubters before, on the field and in the classroom. As a freshman and sophomore at cross-town rival Hoggard, he triumphed in proving some of his coaches wrong after he transferred to Laney as a junior.
"It has made me stronger and made me feel better," he said. "The people who doubted me now talk about what I can do, instead of what I can't."
If Hands doesn't qualify this year, he has developed a back up plan in case of emergency. He says he will attend prep school at Fork Union Military Academy for a year before matriculating to Carolina.
He is not seeking admission to another college, so it appears that whatever happens, Hands will be a Tar Heel one day soon.
Martin, a former UNC assistant under Dick Crum, knows what a college player Hands could become.
"I was impressed with his size when I saw him as a junior against Jacksonville and with the intensity and quickness as he came off the ball," Martin said. "He needs to strengthen his lower body, but his work habits appear to be good.
And Martin says that he has discovered Hands has qualities that extend beyond rushing the passer.
"He wants to be a leader, and he's got that type of quality about him," Martin says. "Sometimes it's hard to find that in an individual that can play and be a true leader."
Hands says that he is dedicated to getting better.
"I'm working on improving my speed and my strength, and how I come up off of the line," he said. "I'm still fully committed to go to Chapel Hill, because the freshman class they have coming in right now could make a real difference."
Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow…