The new recruiting edge for UNC

The entire UNC community breathed a collective sigh of relief when word came down that the University would face no NCAA sanctions.

What the verdict means is no more negative recruiting from UNC’s rivals regarding the possibility of looming NCAA penalties. It also means that the Tar Heel coaching staffs can go now back into the living rooms of top targets and assure them that nothing will be taken away from them if they come to Carolina.

It’s common knowledge that several of UNC’s annual opponents used the school’s NCAA situation as a seed to plant fear of the unknown in recruits. The cutthroat world of football and basketball recruiting is a daily, around-the-clock endeavor that’s arguably way more competitive – and personal – than the individual annual games played in the fall and winter. Coaches often spend two or three years recruiting top targets. Only to be told at the end of the day, all too often, that they’ll be going elsewhere.

When coaches’ livelihoods are based on results on the field, and those results are dictated by recruited players, it’s hard to blame rival coaches for seeking an edge. UNC’s situation provided ammunition to its rivals to bolster their own image. It gave them a chance to separate themselves from the Tar Heels. It’s an approach that can’t be sustained now that UNC knows its fate.

Larry Fedora has enough problems on his hands on the recruiting trail coming off what has been a disastrous 2017 season for the Tar Heels. The absolute last thing Fedora and his staff needed was any more crippling scholarship reductions or future bowl bans.

On the basketball side, Roy Williams isn’t waiting until spring to put his teams together in this age of the one-and-done. In staying true to his old school style, Williams is still building early relationships and locking up players that almost exclusively sign in November. There is one exception on this season’s roster – freshman Garrison Brooks.

Williams and the Tar Heels have vied for numerous spring signees. Lately they’ve swung and missed on Kevin Knox and Brandon Ingram, to name just a couple. But these are outliers – individual prospects who are seen as the final piece of that year’s puzzle. After missing on Knox and Ingram, UNC regrouped and added other players at those positions in subsequent signing classes. Now the Tar Heels are loaded with depth in the backcourt.

Williams has been criticized for not going more aggressively after one-and-done players. But now, after seeing what could be the unraveling of college basketball as we know it with the FBI arrests at various programs, it seems, more than ever, that Williams knows exactly what he is doing.

In a dramatic reversal of fortunes, UNC’s clean image in basketball recruiting undoubtedly played a role in the recent addition of Nassir Little.

Two of the programs on Little’s short list, Miami and Arizona, were noted in the FBI report. Little has not been implicated in the plans of his AAU coach, according to the FBI report, to extract six figures from Arizona and Miami. With UNC clean in that investigation, they were a natural choice for Little when he had to look beyond the Canes and the Wildcats.

Little may not be alone in turning to UNC. The Tar Heels are actively recruiting other 5-star 2018 prospects including Romeo Langford and Simi Shittu. Langford took an official visit to UNC earlier in October. Shittu, who cancelled a proposed official visit to Arizona in early October, visits Chapel Hill in November. The addition of either Langford or Shittu along with Little, Coby White, and Rechon Black will put UNC in the running for America’s top class.

UNC’s pending success in the 2018 could be just the tip of the iceberg. Coming off another NCAA title last spring, and with no dark cloud of uncertainty hovering anymore, the Tar Heels are teed up for another golden age of basketball recruiting under Williams.

Read more: David Glenn: The UNC ‘copycat theory’ doesn’t hold up