Ten best

by Ryan Snyder



The Barnes recruitment that ended last week was an anomaly for a litany of reasons. In the Age of Information, never has a 17-year-old with that kind of profile been so airtight on a college choice up until the final moment. With every scrap of info passing through Twitter, message boards, etc., it usually becomes possible to deduce destinations days, sometimes weeks in advance. Yet there was young Harrison, promising to bring up the coach he’d play for on Skype before hundreds in attendance and thousands watching via webcast. After Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski began recruiting the young star-to-be two years ago, it was assumed that Duke was favored over the local dark horse Iowa State. Yet, the connection was dialed up and there appeared the face of UNC’s Roy Williams, a coach who got involved with Barnes a mere nine months ago. The decision stings even more for the bridesmaids with every comparison to Kobe Bryant that Barnes draws.


No one had ever seen a player of Wallace’s size run the floor and possess the kind of jump shot he did at the time. Dean Smith thought he had no chance with Wallace and almost didn’t recruit him at all, as he was considered a strong lean to hometown school Villanova. Wallace was close friends with other players that Villanova already had in the fold and had even reportedly submitted his dorm preferences to the school. Momentum swung in UNC’s favor after their 1993 national championship and at his press conference announcing his choice of UNC, he was asked if he knew where the Final Four was going to be held the following spring (it was in Charlotte, that’s why the reporter asked the question). Wallace replied, “I don’t know, but I’ll be there.” UNC would lose in the second round that year.


The Dean Smith coaching tree was still just taking root, but one of the first would commit what many Tar Heel fans still view as a Judean kind of betrayal. The heat over star forward Danny Manning got to the point that Kansas coach and former Dean Smith player Larry Brown would go to any length to nab the kid tabbed as a sure thing. Brown hired Manning’s father Ed, a former NBA player and then truck driver, to take the vacant Kansas assistant coaching position, thereby assuring the services of the younger Manning. Brown would go on to win the NCAA title with Manning, while the Tar Heels would bow out in the Elite Eight.


One of the top players in the high school class of 2003 didn’t have to venture far for most of his recruitment: His top three schools were UNC, NC State and Duke, though Florida did become a pretender late in the game. Many thought that the grandson and namesake of former NC State star Ronnie Shavlik would be a mortal lock for the Wolfpack, especially since Matt Doherty and the Tar Heels were floundering after their worst season ever. Coach K still managed to sneak in and snatch up the 6’10” center, who was labeled a “Duke kid” by some very astute experts, and turn the talented post man into an extremely mediocre career reserve.

JOHN WALL, 6’´4″ PG — RALEIGH, NC (2009)

John Wall was one of the first high school players to capture the hearts and minds of YouTube with feats of agility that simply didn’t seem human. The 6’4” point guard from Raleigh didn’t simply beat defenders off the dribble; he embarrassed them. He teased NC State with the hint of interest and was reportedly involved with UNC, whose fans logged daily threads with hundreds of posts on With

the news that John Calipari was taking the head coaching job at Kentucky, Wall became a Wildcat.


Twins Rodrick and Lodrick Stewart were the stuff of legend. Both were blessed with otherworldly athletic abilities and one now-infamous photo circulated online that showed Lodrick skying what appeared to be more than 50 inches off the ground for a dunk. It was clear that then-UNC coach Matt Doherty was interested and the twins had made their love of UNC known. Reports leaked on the site then known as that the twins had committed with a Charlotte-area writer as the source. There was only one problem: UNC hadn’t even extended an offer and never would. The twins would later commit to the University of Washington, only to leave them at the altar. Rodrick would eventually wind up as a Kansas Jayhawk, while Lodrick went to the University of Southern California.


Kenny Anderson didn’t want to be just another horse in Dean Smith’s stable, or so he said after he committed to play for Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech. The ultra-talented Queens, NY point guard was on the national radar since he was in the sixth grade and was coveted by virtually ever major program at the time. After Georgetown removed itself from contention, it was thought that Smith had the inside track on Anderson due to a longtime friendship with Anderson’s high school coach Jack Curran. Cremins made a living on selling starting spots to freshman and after Anderson’s mother Joan reportedly wasn’t happy with Smith’s pitch, the star point guard was cleared to lead the Ramblin’ Wreck to the 1990 Final Four— e ven amidst continued threats from snubbed suitors.


You know what they say about unanswered prayers. Charlotte big man Jason Parker was one of those. In a year where depth up front was going to be critical, UNC inevitably whiffed on one of the most sought-after recruits of the year, but not for lack of effort. Parker had actually committed to play for the Tar Heels in the 1998 signing period, but inability to qualify academically forced him to the University of Kentucky where he tore a knee ligament horsing around during the team’s Midnight Madness. Parker missed the season and, after the Wildcats dismissed him for marijuana possession, transferred to the University of South Carolina where he promptly hurt his knee again.

DANNY FERRY, 6’´10″ F — BALTIMORE, MD. (1985)

He had already made it clear that he was a lifelong Tar Heel fan, but Danny Ferry was the recruit that Coach K needed to sustain his program’s success after the class of Johnny Dawkins, Jay Bilas and Mark Alarie graduated. The battle between Smith and Krzyzewski spilled over into the 11th hour, i.e. the spring of Ferry’s senior year, and the stakes for Duke were particularly high. If he chose UNC, Duke most likely doesn’t go to the Final Four in 1986, 1988 and 1989, increasing the possibility that future stars Christian Laettner and Grant Hill don’t play for the Blue Devils.

TIM THOMAS, 6’´10″ F — PATERSON, NJ (1996)

Tim Thomas was good friends with UNC forward Vince Carter, who was a year older and struggled mightily at times his freshman year. Around the holidays of his freshman year, Carter talked to Thomas and told Tim that the coaches were working on his shot, completely breaking down his old form and building it back up with the proper mechanics. After Thomas committed to Villaova that spring, he referenced that conversation he had with Vince, saying that he couldn’t understand why the UNC coaches were trying to change the shooting mechanics of a player as great as Carter.