The late arrival of high-scoring Turkish center Omer Yurtseven isn’t just good news for N.C. State, which desperately needed an injection of talent with all of its offseason defections and Abdul-Malik Abu still flirting with the NBA.
It’s good news for the Triangle, which will get to watch an improbable collection of the best freshman basketball talent in the country next season.
The three teams combined have eight of the top 50 incoming freshmen in the country according to 24/7’s composite rankings. Recruiting rankings are merely projections, notoriously inaccurate when applied to individuals, especially outside the top handful of players. Even with a skeptical eye, however, this appears a staggering collection of talent.
Assuming lingering questions about Yurtseven’s NCAA eligibility are resolved, N.C. State has him and explosive point guard Dennis Smith, who enrolled last winter to rehab a knee injury.
Duke brings in its fourth straight class full of potential NBA one-and-dones, this time led by forward Harry Giles, swingman Jayson Tatum, point guard Frank Jackson and forward Javin DeLaurier.
And North Carolina, after a one-year dip, brings in big man Tony Bradley and shooter Seventh Woods.
That gives the Triangle six of the top 26 incoming freshmen in the country and eight of the top 50. The other 12 teams in the ACC have six recruits in the top 50. That’s an incredible monopolization of talent for one market, even if John Calipari occasionally does that by himself, Kentucky being Kentucky.
And there’s still one big recruit out there considering Duke: five-star center Marques Bolden, for whom a scholarship opened up this spring when Derryck Thornton decided to transfer.
That would make nine, matching the class of 2006. With or without Bolden, next fall’s incoming freshmen are, by the rankings, the best group to arrive in the Triangle in a decade. Whether they can measure up to their predecessors remains to be seen.
These have been fruitful years for basketball recruiting in the Triangle, even by its standards. The recruiting classes of 2014 and 2015, each with seven of the top 50 in the 24/7 rankings, ended up delivering a national title (Duke, 2015) and a championship finalist (North Carolina, 2016), breaking the drought that went back to the Blue Devils’ title in 2010.
That title and North Carolina’s national championship in 2009 had a lot to do with the Triangle’s stellar recruiting class of 2006, which included nine of the top 50 prospects. For North Carolina, that was Brandan Wright, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Alex Stepheson and Deon Thompson; for Duke, it was Gerald Henderson, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and Jon Scheyer.
Most of those names came to mean a lot to basketball fans over the next four years. Most of them still do.
That success was far from inevitable. A year earlier, the Triangle accounted for a full 10 of the top 50 prospects, although that class was far more uneven, from the success of Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green to the unfulfilled potential of Josh McRoberts and Brandon Costner to the forgettable tenures of Marty Pocius and Eric Boateng.
Even the high-powered Harrison Barnes-Kyrie Irving-C.J. Leslie class of 2010 didn’t have as much depth as this spring’s group, nor did it come close to achieving what its peers from 2006 did.
In terms of both raw numbers and raw talent, 2006 still stands out as a golden generation that delivered two national titles, three Final Fours, four ACC championships and four ACC regular-season titles – a class that measured up both in rankings and results.
This group still has all of that in front of it, but that’s where the bar is set. It’s unfair to expect it. It’s OK to get excited.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock