Bell Makes it Official

After privately favoring North Carolina for several months, Hawatha Bell verbally committed to the Tar Heels' coaching staff Saturday morning during his UNC official visit.

"To me, they basically have the whole package," Bell told Inside Carolina Thursday evening.

"It's a great academic school. And then on top of that all the alumni that they have. Just incase football doesn't go my way I'll still have a good job and a good career to fall back on.

"On top of that, the [early] playing time that they've been talking about giving me [is attractive].

"[And I liked] the way I connected with Coach [John] Blake, Coach [Tommy] Thigpen, [and] the way I connect with all of [the coaching staff]. I talk to them like I've known them for a long time."

Making the decision even easier for Bell was knowing that two familiar faces would be in Chapel Hill with him – Josh Hunter, a fellow UNC verbal commitment who is also Bell's cousin, and Ryan Houston, a sophomore tailback who played two season with Bell at Butler.

"It's good to have a close friend or a teammate up there with you, but now I have a teammate and a family member," Bell said. "I know that going up there, Ryan will look after me like he did when I was at Butler."

Bell says he has known that UNC was his college destination for "a good couple of months."

"I knew I wanted to go to UNC when Coach Blake told me that he wasn't worried about recruiting me, he's just trying to get to know me," Bell said. "He's just trying to get to know me as a player and make sure that I get what I need. And he said he wasn't trying to recruit me, he was trying to bring me into a football family."

Originally, Bell had planned to officially visit several other schools before finalizing his college decision. However, various reasons prevented visits to other schools from taking place. The most recent came last weekend when Bell canceled his trip to Illinois because he was sick.

"I wasn't going to let me not going to Illinois affect my plans," Bell said. "I wanted to commit to UNC."

Bell's verbal commitment to UNC completely ends his recruitment. He has no plans to officially visit any other school.

Ironically, early in the process, UNC wasn't a strong player in Bell's recruitment. However, a last-minute unofficial visit drastically altered Bell's thoughts.

"When I went up there, the way all the coaches treated me and just showed me around [impressed me]," Bell said. "When Josh and I were up there they just took my eyes. Because you know I wasn't even thinking about UNC. The campus, coaches, how I was treated by the players up there – everything [grabbed my attention]."

Bell says Thigpen projects him as a middle linebacker and expects him to compete for early playing time.

"With them talking about starting me as a freshman at middle linebacker, when football season is over I'm just going to hit the weights hard," Bell said.

It might be a while before Bell's senior football season is over. Butler defeated Charlotte (N.C.) Providence Friday night putting them into the third round of the NCHSAA 4AA State Playoffs. Following the playoffs, Bell will represent North Carolina in the Shrine Bowl on December 20.

Hawatha Bell

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