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Zion Williamson, top 2018 prospect, visits UNC

North Carolina prospect Zion Williamson, left, sits beside former Tar Heels great Phil Ford prior to the Tar Heels’ exhibition game against Barton College on Friday, October 27, 2017 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.
North Carolina prospect Zion Williamson, left, sits beside former Tar Heels great Phil Ford prior to the Tar Heels’ exhibition game against Barton College on Friday, October 27, 2017 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. rwillett@newsobserver.com

During the height of uncertainty during a long, drawn-out NCAA investigation, North Carolina coach Roy Williams bemoaned the investigation's effect on his ability to recruit some of the best high school players in the country. Some top prospects, Williams said, wouldn't even visit.

Two weeks after the university received no sanctions from the NCAA Committee on Infractions, things already seem to be changing. UNC on Friday night welcomed Zion Williamson, the 6-foot-6, 275-pound forward who's among the best prospects in the class of 2018.

Williamson, who has received national attention during his years at Spartanburg (S.C.) Day School, attended UNC's exhibition game against Barton College at the Smith Center. He emerged from the tunnel moments before tip-off and took his seat on the baseline, in the corner closest to the UNC bench.

Basketball phenom Zion Williamson dunks as Spartanburg Day plays Trinity-Byrnes in the SCISA state semi-finals in Sumter.

Phil Ford, perhaps the best point guard to ever play at UNC, sat next to Williamson throughout the exhibition. They exchanged laughter, and conversation. Williamson was making his official visit to UNC, his fourth official visit in the past month. He'd also visited Kansas, Kentucky and Duke, according to 247sports.com.

That website considers Williamson the No. 2 prospect in this class, and the best at his position. The Tar Heels have already put together a strong 2018 recruiting class. They have received commitments from Nassir Little, the No. 9 prospect in the class, according to 247sports.com; Coby White (No. 23) and Rechon Black (No. 62). It's considered the nation's top class.

UNC is not considered the favorite for Williamson. If the Tar Heels successfully recruit him, though, it'd leave Williams with arguably his best class at UNC. Williams recently said it was too early to tell any effects from the end of the NCAA investigation.

“We haven't had that time period yet that you can see that,” he said.

Exactly two weeks after the case’s resolution, though, one of the nation’s best prospects sat courtside at the Smith Center.

Zion Williamson is known internationally and is being heavily recruited by Duke, UNC and other national powerhouses as a rising senior in high school.

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter

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