UNC evaluated Kleiza this fall and also made an effort to get involved in his recruitment, but Montrose Christian's storied head coach Stu Vetter wouldn't let the Heels enter the race for his senior star this late in the game. Indiana also tried to get involved, and got the same answer from Vetter, much to Coach Mike Davis' dismay. Kleiza, who's one of the most aggressive rebounders in the country, is also considering Virginia and N.C. State -- but we think that Quin Snyder's Tigers have a bigger lead than most people realize for the McDonald's All-American candidate.
Another 2003 post player that was evaluated by the Heels is Paulius Joneliunas -- also a native of Lithuania -- who is currently playing with Roanoke Catholic under coach Dick Wall. The skilled 6-10 center has been one of the hottest names on the east coast for the past three months and he's received numerous scholarship offers due to the fact that he may be able to contribute right away at a high major school. His hands, ball skills and feel for the game are very impressive and his body is relatively strong and he can run the floor.
Knowledgeable sources on Joneliunas have indicated that South Carolina, however, is strongly positioned with Joneliunas, and we believe that not only were the Tar Heels not sure he'd fit their system, but they also felt that the uphill battle to defeat Dave Odom for this Lithuanian youngster may have been too much to overcome.
In other words, we'd be shocked if the Tar Heels offered the Roanoke Catholic big man anytime soon. Wall informed us last week that he hadn't heard from the staff at UNC in weeks and that his star senior had still not received an offer from Matt Doherty.
After the Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament in Lewes, Del. last month, the Tar Heels had a renewed interest in agile shot-blocking center Darryl Watkins of Paterson, NJ. Watkins, who's also one of the most talented big men left in the country, has also shown an interest in being recruited by the Tar Heels. At last check, the staff is only evaluating him and have yet to inquire about his latest transcripts. The New Jersey center has always been a big target for many Big East programs, but the Heels' basketball staff has had the mobile big man on their radar for most of the last two seasons.
There is a possibility that the interest in Watkins could be more serious, though, and the staff at UNC wants to get the defensive standout to visit the campus and interact with the current team members. We will have much more on Watkins shortly.