Roy Williams is putting together the banner recruiting class that usually leads to Final Fours and net-cutting.
It's a bit early to predict future greatness for the Tar Heels, and Williams could still sign another star or two, but UNC fans have to be excited about the latest commitment from Theo Pinson. The local product became the third player ranked in the top 21 of the 2014 class (according to Rivals.com's rankings) to commit to Williams. No other program has had more than one player ranked in the top 30 commit.
This is the kind of class that usually re-energizes ol' Roy. He usually recruits in cycles and every few years—even back to when he was at Kansas—he'll land a star-studded class or back-to-back great classes that give him the players necessary to win a title.
Take a quick stroll through Williams' past.
In 1993, he signed Scott Pollard and Jacque Vaughn. The next year he landed Raef LaFrentz, followed by Paul Pierce the following season. In Vaughn's senior season with that core of future pros, the Jayhawks had one of the best teams ever to not win a national title.
In 1999, Williams signed Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich and Drew Gooden. That trio led KU to the Final Four in 2002. Collison and Hinrich then took KU to the title game in 2003.
Williams' first championship was led by Sean May, Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton. He can thank Matt Doherty for that one.
The 2009 title team was led by two seniors—Tyler Hanbrough and Danny Green—and three juniors—Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Deon Thompson. Brandan Wright, the star of that junior class left early, but Williams had recruited enough depth to compensate for his loss.
Now take a look at what the 2014-15 Heels could look like.
In the post, Williams will have 2013 signees Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks along with Brice Johnson and Joel James as juniors. Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons will provide depth as seniors. It's not likely, but there's a possibility that James Michael McAdoo could be around for his senior year.
On the wing, Pinson will be joined by fellow five-star recruit Justin Jackson. Both could potentially start as freshmen if P.J. Hairston leaves after next season. Off the bench, J.P. Tokoto should be a solid option as a junior.
At point guard, Williams will have Marcus Paige in his third year as a starter. 2014 signee Joel Berry could create a situation similar to Kendall Marshall's freshman season, where he eventually displaced Larry Drew II as the starter.
Paige also has enough height and a good enough jumper to slide over to the 2 spot. Incoming 2013 point guard Nate Britt should also provide depth at the point.
Here's a realistic starting lineup for the 2014-15 team with the Rivals' ranking of each player coming out of high school in parentheses.
- PG: Marcus Paige (34)
- SG: Theo Pinson (15)
- SF: Justin Jackson (14)
- PF: Isaiah Hicks (16)
- C: Brice Johnson (49)
That's an average ranking of 25.6. It would drop to 17 if you replace Pinson with Hairston (13) and Johnson with McAdoo (8), or it could be as low as 14.4 if you also replace Paige with Berry (21).
Here's how those lineups compare with UNC's last seven starting lineups, ranked as prospects:
- 2006-07: 20.4
- 2007-08: 26.0
- 2008-09: 26.0
- 2009-10: 60.2
- 2010-11: 21.2
- 2011-12: 16.4
- 2012-13: 19.8
These are all hypothetical scenarios. Last season proved that these projections don't always pan out, especially when you lack experience. But Williams has to love the versatility he'll have in 2014-15 and going forward. There's enough depth in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 classes that the Heels will be able to survive if anyone bolts for the NBA.
And Williams might not be finished yet with this class.
According to CBSSports.com's Jeff Borzello, North Carolina is being considered by 2014's consensus top-ranked recruit Jahlil Okafor. UNC was also a leader for star shooting guard Rashad Vaughn several weeks ago.
The fact that the current class is missing a top 10 stud might not be the worst thing. Williams has thrived when he's been able to get his best players to stick around for a few years and get used to his system.
In the one-and-done era, Williams might just be putting together his ideal roster.
If for some reason anyone was questioning whether Williams still had it as a recruiter when the Heels were struggling this past season or when they didn't land Andrew Wiggins, go ahead and stop.
Williams is building again and he's still one of the best architects in the game.
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