All the misses, all the disappointments, all the trouble, even, in enticing some of the best high school prospects in the country to visit campus – all of that, and here’s North Carolina with one of the most highly-rated recruiting classes in the country. Again.
Recruiting slump? What recruiting slump?
The Tar Heels now have a consensus top-10 2016 recruiting class after Seventh Woods, a versatile 6-foot-1 guard from Columbia, S.C., announced on Wednesday that he’d be playing at UNC next season. After going so long without a commitment from a class of 2016 player, Woods is UNC’s third commitment from his class in the past two and a half months.
First Tony Bradley, a 6-foot-10 center from Bartow, Fla., committed to UNC in early September. He gave UNC its first commitment from a top-30 prospect since the 2014 class. Then Brandon Robinson, a 6-foot-5 guard from Douglasville, Ga., committed to UNC in late September. He’s generally regarded as among the top 50 or 60 prospects in the country.
And now the Tar Heels have a commitment from Woods, who is ranked No. 53 in ESPN’s class of 2016 rankings. After Woods’ commitment, UNC has a top-10 class, according to ESPN.com (No. 6), Rivals.com (9th) and Scout.com (4th).
What does Woods’ commitment mean? It’s pretty simple: It means, definitively, that UNC is no longer in a recruiting drought. It means that the 2016 class, which two and a half months ago appeared in disarray, is probably about as good as good have been, under the circumstances.
No, there isn’t a top-5, one-and-done type prospect among UNC’s three commitments. That particular drought lives on. Still, Woods gives UNC a three-player class that is probably stronger than coach Roy Williams could have hoped to put together amid what he has called all “the junk” that has surrounded his program.
That would be the ongoing uncertainty amid an NCAA investigation that is still a ways away from completion. Will UNC endure a postseason ban as a result of that investigation? Will a championship banner, or even two, come down from the rafters? Will there be scholarship cuts? In short, how will the outcome of the investigation affect Williams’ program?
Those are the questions Williams and UNC has had to face in recruiting. And the worst part, perhaps: There are no answers. Williams can’t prove he’s right when he tells prospects that he expects his program to be spared the worst. And he can’t necessarily prove wrong rival coaches who have used the scandal and NCAA investigation to put doubt in the minds of prospects.
Then there are the perception issues Williams has been fighting when it comes to recruiting: the thought that he’s not interested in one-and-done types – to the contrary, he is interested in those players – or the notion that he “handcuffs” promising freshmen in his system.
“There’s no one answer,” Williams said recently when asked if the NCAA investigation was the sole reason for UNC’s relative recruiting struggles. “I do know that the recruiting part has been more difficult.”
At least, it had been more difficult. Woods’ commitment on Thursday was UNC’s third in less than three months and now the Tar Heels are back in a familiar territory, with a class that ranks among the top 10 nationally.