by Nicholas King
Carolina Week, Sports Anchor/Producer
Harrison Barnes, the number one ranked player in ESPNU’s list of the Top 100 high school basketball players, is on his way to Chapel Hill. At this point, we know he’ll be joined by Reggie Bullock (No. 13) and Kendall Marshall (No. 19). Those three commitments alone give Roy Williams another stellar recruiting class.
Personally, I don’t follow high school recruiting. I know it’s become a huge thing in the past five or six years, but I just can’t get into it. I spoke with Adam Lucas about a month ago and he told me his rule is that he doesn’t look at highlights of players or read articles about players until they officially arrive on campus. With how often kids change their minds, especially during the time period when they could still go straight to the league (See: J.R. Smith), it’s a rule I can appreciate.
It was one thing in high school when all my friends followed everything on Scout.com and Rivals.com to see who was going to Notre Dame and who was going to Penn State, because we were usually younger than the guys, or at least the same age. But especially now that I’m a senior in college, I just don’t like the idea of following high school kids’ every move. It has to be done, because so many people care, but it’s just not for me.
Even without knowing a lot about Barnes, I can accept the experts ranking him as the best prep player in the country, and assume he’s a stud.
That being said, the first thought that came to my mind when I heard about this was, “How long until Carolina doesn’t have the deepest team in the country?”
Seriously. Let’s start with where the Heels stood a year and a half ago after bowing out to Kansas in the Final Four. They were the clear cut number one for the following season, the season that would eventually result in a national championship. The offseason started with Alex Stepheson, who improved dramatically from his freshman year to sophomore year, transferring back home to USC. Then Marcus Ginyard was hurt, and ended up medical redshirting. Then Tyler Hansbrough started the year hurt. Then Tyler Zeller broke his wrist and spent several months out. Then Will Graves was suspended for the year. Still, after all that, the Heels went eight or nine deep, and it was a strong eight or nine.
Now we move to this season. The top four scorers are lost to the draft, and yet they’re preseason ranked No. 4 in the country. According to Sports Illustrated, they have the top frontcourt in the nation, and five of the six guys who make up that frontcourt are freshmen or sophomores. We don’t know what will happen this year, but after two games, Roy is comfortable going 12 deep. Yes, 12 deep.
Of those 12, Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson are the only two who will definitely leave. Ed Davis will certainly be tempted to go pro if he has another stellar season, but worst case scenario this team will lose three guys. With the three recruits already mentioned, it’s hard to believe Roy won’t go 12 deep again next year. With the pace Roy likes to play, it’s conceivable that 12 guys will get 10+ minutes a game both this year and next year too, to keep everyone fresh.
So as long as Roy Williams is the coach, who wouldn’t want to come play at UNC? He will continue to bring in top recruits, and even if some of them only last one or two years, his teams will be deep year in and year out.
I just don’t know when a Carolina team won’t make the Final Four. When they don’t, it will almost surely be a surprise. The eight win season we saw under Matt Doherty is so far in the past it’s unbelievable. We may not see eight losses for a long, long time. That’s what the signing of Harrison Barnes means more than anything. Carolina basketball will not drop under the radar, not anytime soon.