With North Carolina bringing in one of the top freshman groups in the country for next season, the Tar Heels coaching staff has shifted its attention to future recruiting classes. That includes a 2015 class that has yet to yield a UNC commitment.
Over the years, Roy Williams has found success going after the cream of the crop in North Carolina while also landing highly recruited players from up and down the East Coast. For this recruiting cycle, however, the 63-year-old coach is hoping to bring in a gem or two from the west.
According to Inside Carolina, the staff has extended six total scholarship offers to 2015 prospects. Included on that list is Ivan Rabb, a blue-chip power forward from California. While Williams hasn’t brought in a player from The Golden State since the Wear twins arrived in Chapel Hill in 2009, he’s garnered more out-of-state commitments from California than anywhere else during his time at UNC.
Stephen Zimmerman is another high school junior from out west holding an offer from the Heels, but history and geography would suggest that he’ll go elsewhere. The 6-11 center from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas would be North Carolina’s first commitment from Nevada during the Williams era, but Rashad Vaughn, Shabazz Muhammad and Myck Kabongo each came from the same area in recent years before choosing schools outside of the ACC.
Mississippi is another state that hasn’t produced a UNC pledge since the school’s last coaching change. Although 2014 guard Devin Booker passed on the opportunity to become the first, Malik Newman is a guy who could possibly fill that role. Unlike Nevada, there hasn’t exactly been a trend set in the state of Mississippi of guys passing up on offers to play at North Carolina, and Newman would be an excellent candidate for the team’s vacant 2-guard spot.
Another recruit that Williams’ staff has made a priority for 2015 is Diamond Stone, a center from Milwaukee, Wisc. While it’s not the most heavily recruited area for Tar Heel basketball, Wisconsin is not totally unfamiliar territory. In 2012, J.P. Tokoto became the first player from the state to commit to a UNC team coached by Williams, and current Wisconsin Badger Bronson Koenig also received an offer from the staff. Stone’s destination is difficult to predict, but the fact that he hails from the Badger State is neither good news nor bad.
Rounding out the Heels’ six offers are a pair of prospects from the Carolinas. Shooting guard P.J. Dozier, a South Carolina native, would surprisingly only be Williams’ second commitment from the border state to the south. However, Brandon Ingram fits the mold of a recruit that North Carolina is generally able to lock up. As the top in-state player in the Class of 2015, Ingram plays his high school ball at Kinston High School, where former Tar Heel stars Reggie Bullock and Jerry Stackhouse spent at least part of their prep careers. Ingram’s recruitment appears to be wide open, but 10 in-state players have committed to Williams at UNC, and it’s not often that the Hall of Fame coach misses on a big-time player in his own backyard. With other schools also in the mix, Carolina fans should look for Ingram to be the most intriguing storyline in the 2015 class.
Overall, Williams should have a solid chance with his current top targets. It remains unclear how many scholarships will be available following next season, but Zimmerman is the only one of the six offered prospects who comes from an area where UNC has struggled with recruiting in recent years. If the coaching staff can lock up two of the five others, then Williams would undoubtedly have a strong foundation for the rest of the class moving forward.