Over the past few seasons, Roy Williams has been seemingly unable to pull in the top recruits in the country, despite great team success. This trend has been attributed by some to the NCAA investigation hanging over the program’s head, while others blame on Williams’ skill as a coach. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the notion that Roy Williams is unable to recruit, or that he doesn’t care about recruiting.
Both of these notions are false.
According to Rivals, North Carolina has not pulled a top 10 recruit since 2011, and they have only had three top 25 recruits since 2012. However, it has not seemed to affect the Heels’ success all that much. Since 2011, the Tar Heels have made seven consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, four ACC regular season championships, two final four appearances and one national championship appearance.
So how has Carolina been able to maintain success while experiencing an apparent drop off in recruiting?
The answer to this question is related to the current state of college basketball, the one-and-done era. Since 2005 the top high school players in the nation have all either attended college for at least one year, or have played for an international team.
This is due to a rule that requires all players to be at least one year removed from high school at the time of the NBA draft, and has resulted in most players choosing to attend college for just one season.
As a result, the college basketball landscape is changing. Most coaches no longer try to build teams full of talented veterans that take a few years to build. Instead, coaches are now choosing to recruit top talents that will more than likely leave the school after one year.
Opposed to further developing the same core for the next year, teams reload with a brand-new class of talented freshmen the next year.
Roy Williams has gone a different path than the rest.
While schools like Duke and Kentucky are bringing in multiple top 15 recruits every year, North Carolina has had a continuous flow of four star and lower five star recruits. This isn’t because Williams isn’t trying to recruit the top players; he is. It is because Williams prefers to play older, more experienced veterans over top freshmen. As a result of this preference, many top talents decide to go elsewhere for college because they want to showcase their talent for one year and leave.
Williams is still putting together dominant teams that are competing for ACC titles every year, and this is because college basketball is dominated by experience. Obviously, a coach would rather have the number one freshman in the country than a two star recruit that will stay for four years, but teams with experience are dominating college basketball.
When Carolina played in the national championship in 2016 and 2017, they had two seniors and three juniors in their starting line-up. In fact, since the one-and-done era began in 2005, only four teams have won the national championship with a one-and-done player. Roy Williams has been able to lead UNC to three national titles in his tenure, despite only having three freshmen leave after one year. One of which didn’t even start.
Roy Williams is far from the best recruiter in college basketball. This evident from UNC missing out on players such as such as Brandon Ingram and Kevin Knox. However, it has not hurt him due to his ability to recruit players that are in it for the long haul. Players such as Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige, and Kennedy Meeks weren’t top recruits out of high school, but they stayed at Carolina for four years and developed into stars.
The current climate of one-and-dones combined with the strategy of Williams will not lead to the top talent coming through Chapel Hill. However, it will lead to many more years of success for Williams and the Tar Heels.