It’s been a good year for Roy Williams and his North Carolina basketball program.
In April, the Tar Heels beat Gonzaga to win the third national championship of Williams’ 14-year tenure as coach at his alma mater. Last month, UNC emerged from a seven-year NCAA investigation into academic fraud without being hit with sanctions.
And Wednesday, on the first day of the fall signing period, Williams landed a three-man recruiting class currently ranked by Scout.com as the best in the nation.
The Tar Heels weren’t the only ones to bring in an impressive haul of new talent.
The same rankings, which will change as teams add more recruits for the 2018-19 season, list Wake Forest’s class at No. 9 nationally while Kevin Keatts’ first recruiting effort at NC State at No. 13. Duke checks in at No. 19 for now, but is still in play for several other top high school seniors.
Here is the rundown of all the new players that signed national letters of intent at state schools Wednesday:
The Tar Heels signed three players — five-star wing Nassir Little, five-star combo guard Coby White and four-star small forward Rechon Black.
Little, a 6-foot-7 native of Orange Park, Fla., is the Tar Heels’ highest-rated recruit since Harrison Barnes in 2010 and their first top-10 prospect since Justin Jackson four years ago. A potential one-and-done talent, Little is a versatile player who can fit in at several positions and be a difference-maker on both ends of the court.
“He has the potential to be a great scorer and a big-time defender,” Williams said in a statement announcing the signings. “He can shoot the ball from the outside, he is very athletic finishing plays around the rim and just has the total package as a basketball player.”
White, who committed to UNC as a sophomore and currently plays at the Greenfield School in Wilson, gives the Tar Heels some size in the backcourt, along with the kind of ballhandling skills that will allow Williams to use him at the point, as well as the shooting guard position.
“He’s 6-5 and can play both guard positions, can shoot the ball extremely well and is very athletic attacking the basket,” Williams said. “He pushed the ball hard in transition and will fit in well here. He’s getting better and better defensively each year and is a complete guard.”
Black is a well-rounded 6-7 prospect from Cox Mill High School in Concord whose skill set is similar to that of current Tar Heel Theo Pinson.
“His greatest skill is understanding the game,” Williams said. “He’s a great passer who is always trying to get others involved. He keeps getting bigger and stronger, so we have no idea what position he will play because he’s so versatile and he keeps growing so much.”
Keatts scored big with four new recruits, all of which have been rated as four-star prospects. They are 6-9 power forward Manny Bates from Fayetteville, 6-7 wing Saddiq Bey from Washington, D.C., 6-6 small forward Jericole Hellems from St. Louis and 6-9 post Ian Steere.
Bates and Steere are currently teammates at Northwood Temple Academy in Fayetteville. Their arrival will bolster a frontcourt that will likely lose its top three contributors after this season.
Bates is regarded as one of the best shot-blockers in the 2018 class, whose stock rose quickly after a strong summer on the AAU circuit.
“He’s a mobile post player who is great at altering and blocking shots,” Keatts said. “He is another kid who checked off all the boxes we look for in terms of recruiting a total student-athlete.”
Steere played last season at Wesleyan Christian in High Point, where he led the team to a 28-5 record. He chose the Wolfpack over Clemson, Arkansas, Missouri and Creighton.
“Ian is a physically gifted athlete that will help us in the paint,” Keatts said. “He already possesses a college-ready body without having really lifted any weights and has a knack for keeping plays alive on the offensive end. Ian is one of the most physical players in the country.”
Bey is an athletic player who grew six inches since his freshman year of high school at Sidwell Friends School.
“Saddiq is an extremely talented player who fits our system perfectly with his ability to play and guard multiple positions,” Keatts said. “Saddiq’s freshman year at Sidwell Friends School he was a 6-1 point guard and has since grown to 6-7 while still having those same guard skills.”
Hellems is a strong two-way player who attended the same high school (Chaminade) as former Duke star and Boston Celtics first-round draft pick Jayson Tatum.
“Jericole is a hybrid forward who is a tremendous shot maker and can really stretch the defense,” Keatts said. “His basketball pedigree, and his ability to play outside-in is what makes him unique.”
Coach Mike Krzyzewski signed only two players on Wednesday, but both are five-star blue-chippers.
Tre Jones, from St. Paul, Minn., is the younger brother of 2015 Blue Devils national champion Tyus Jones. At 6-2, he is rated as the No. 6 overall player in the country and the No. 1 point guard in the Class of 2018.
Cameron Reddish is a 6-7 shooting guard from Norristown, Pa., with a 7-1 wingspan and an ability to knock down jumpers and attack the basket with a style similar to another member of that 2015 team — Justise Winslow.
Coach Danny Manning continued the upward trajectory of his Deacons’ program by signing four players, led by 6-8 forward Jaylen Hoard — only the third five-star prospect in school history. The other new recruits are guard Jamie Lewis, forward Isaiah Mucius and guard Sharone Wright Jr.
A native of France entering his second year at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, Hoard is the highest-rated player to sign with Wake since Al-Farouq Aminu in 2010 and Chris Paul in 2005. He was the teammate of current Deacon Olivier Sarr on France’s U-17 national team at the FIBA World Championships this summer.
“Jaylen Hoard is a multidimensional, versatile young man who can play inside and outside,” Manning said. “He can score all over and is a very good passer. With his length and athleticism, he is going to bring an element to Wake Forest basketball that we haven’t seen in quite some time.”
Lewis is a 6-3 playmaker from Findlay Prep in Las Vegas whose older brother play college basketball at Shaw and UCF.
“Jamie Lewis a gifted guard who can play the one or the two,” Manning said. “He has a great feel for the game and has a body that is ready to play at the collegiate level. He can score and facilitate the basketball.”
Mucius is a 6-8 small forward at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.
“Isaiah is a long wing who is extremely versatile,” Manning said. “He plays with a chip on his shoulder and wears his emotions on his sleeve.”
Wright, meanwhile, is a 6-5 shooting guard who comes with an ACC and NBA pedigree as the son of former Clemson star Sharone Wright Sr.
“Sharone Wright is a very talented, athletic guard who we feel can bring a lot length and versatility to our team,” Manning said. “I have known his father for an extremely long time, who was a great player in his own right, and remember competing against him in the NBA.”
Here are Wednesday’s signings by some of the state’s other Division I teams (as reported by the schools):
ECU: Jayden Gardner, 6-8, forward, Wake Forest (Heritage HS); DeShaun Wade, 6-2, guard, Charlottesville, Va. (Miller School); Mike Wynn, 6-6, guard, Charlotte (Liberty Heights Athletic Institute).
CHARLOTTE: Dravon Mangum, 6-8, forward, Roxboro (Person HS); Cooper Robb, 6-2, guard, Georgetown, Ky. (Scott County HS).
UNCW: Kai Towes, 6-1, guard, Northfield, Mass. (Mount Hermon HS).
CAMPBELL: LaDarius Knight, 6-5, wing, Ashford, Ala. (Ashford HS).
WESTERN CAROLINA: Josh Cottrell, 6-2, guard, Hayesville (Hayesville HS).
GARDNER-WEBB: Jaylen Alston, 6-4, guard, Gibsonville (Eastern Guilford HS); Keon Ellis, 6-5 guard, Leesburg, Fla. (Leesburg HS); Gabe Bryant, 6-9, forward, Dawsonville, Ga. (Dorman, S.C., HS).