UNC 2017 Recruiting Class
Despite being just two weeks removed from North Carolina winning its sixth national championship with a 71-65 win over Gonzaga, it’s never too early to look at how the reigning champs are set up to fare next season. The Heels graduate three players who had significant contributions to the championship season, those being backup guard Nate Britt, starting PF Isaiah Hicks and starting C Kennedy Meeks. Also, the Heels lose their leading scorer, junior SF Justin Jackson to the NBA Draft, and could lose starting PG Joel Berry to the draft as well. But UNC brings in the 15th ranked recruiting class for next season, which includes Jalek Felton, Andrew Platek, Brandon Huffman, Garrison Brooks, and Sterling Manley.
Jalek Felton headlines this recruiting class, and is the #24 rated player and #6 rated SG in the ESPN Top 100. If the last name sounds familiar to Tar Heel fans, Jalek is the nephew of the point guard on the 2005 National Championship team, Raymond Felton. Although ESPN lists Felton as a SG and he stands at 6’3” 180 lbs, expect Coach Williams to use Felton mostly at the point and only sparingly off the ball. Last year at Gray Collegiate Academy, Felton averaged 26.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 5.4 APG. Those numbers suggest he is a dynamic scorer, but most scouts believe Felton’s greatest asset is his passing. He has good size for the point guard position, and combined with great speed, vision, and ability to finish at the rim, Felton is dynamic in transition. He has a much-improved jump shot, and appears to be a perfect fit for UNC’s run-and-gun system. However, if Berry returns for his senior year, which many expect him to, Felton will more than likely share time with sophomore Seventh Woods as Berry’s backup, but expect one of them to receive the bulk of the role as the season goes on to provide consistency with the second unit.
Andrew Platek is another SG that committed to the Heels, but Platek fits the shooting guard mold much better than Felton. Platek is only a 3-star recruit, but is a consistent shooter from beyond the arc and a solid perimeter defender. Then assistant coach, C.B. McGrath, who now is the head coach at UNC Wilmington, recruited Platek, and says he plays the game hard and competes on every possession. However, given UNC already two outstanding defenders at the SG position, expect Platek to play sparingly his freshman year.
Brandon Huffman is a 6’9” 250 lb center from Raleigh, NC. Huffman has a great frame, is athletic for his size, and is a great finisher around the rim. He has a tremendous upside, but is extremely raw, which bodes well considering UNC has become one of the elite programs at developing post players. So, Huffman is definitely someone to keep your eye on in the coming years. However, this year he will more than likely play behind Luke Maye and Tony Bradley, coming off the bench to give either of those two a rest.
Similar to Huffman, Sterling Manley, has good upside but needs time to develop. Manley, a 6’10” 220 lb center, broke his right leg twice in the span of six months during his junior year of high school, and, as a result, only played in a few games at the end of his senior year. But Manley performed well in those games and was highly touted before his leg injuries. If Manley can stay healthy and continue to develop, he should be another big that can come off the bench and add depth to the UNC frontline, a big key to the Heels’ success this past year.
Recently commited PF Garrison Brooks is a 4-star recruit from Lafayette, Louisiana and will could battle with Luke Maye for the starting PF spot. He is an extremely skilled forward who will add to the depth of the defending national champions.
Those are the five commits to UNC, but two highly rated, undecided recruits have UNC on their list. The #7 player on the ESPN Top 100, SF Kevin Knox, plans to choose between Duke, Florida State, Kentucky, Missouri, and North Carolina by May 10. If Knox elects to attend UNC, he would more than likely step in and try to replace the ACC Player of the Year, Justin Jackson. It’s just another mediocre recruiting class put together by Coach Williams and his staff, something Tar Heel fans have come to expect, but UNC certainly has a chance to repeat as champions. They won’t be the favorites to begin the season like Arizona or Duke, but should not be left off the list of title contenders for the upcoming season.