North Carolina recruiting: Josh Nickelberry’s Louisville commitment leaves Tar Heels on guard duty
Join us daily at ACC DieHards for the latest North Carolina recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Tar Heels. Don’t miss any coverage from Cody Pace and the DieHards.com team. Read his daily notebooks here at 7 p.m. ET Sunday through Thursday. In this edition, we discuss where North Carolina stands with Class of 2019 guards after Josh Nickelberry’s recent commitment to Louisville.
To even the casual recruiting follower, it’s obvious that North Carolina’s priorities aren’t at guard for the Class of 2019.
That’s helped by the presence of the Tar Heels’ lone commit, 4-star point guard Jeremiah Francis. But a list of North Carolina’s highest priority uncommitted targets — players such as 5-star power forward/center Armando Bacot, 5-star power forward Vernon Carey Jr. and 5-star power forward Matthew Hurt — show what North Carolina is after.
Even so, the one name that has been constant on North Carolina’s board during the last several months has been 4-star shooting guard Josh Nickelberry. But that changed last Thursday when the nation’s No. 6 shooting guard and No. 55 overall player committed to Louisville.
4⭐️ Josh Nickelberry has committed to Louisville! 🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/aXGSxlLZnO
— TIPTON EDITS 🏀 (@TiptonEdits) June 1, 2018
The writing had been on the wall for this commitment since early May, when Nickelberry took an unofficial visit. Before February, North Carolina was viewed as the overwhelming favorite to land Nickelberry, but the Tar Heels seemed to back off during the last couple months. Louisville, which benefited from a relationship between new coach Chris Mack and Nickelberry when Mack was at Xavier, got more aggressive.
The commitment leaves North Carolina somewhat bare on the guard market, but there are possibilities.
There is, of course, 5-star combo guard Cole Anthony. As we wrote in the Dean’s List on Thursday, North Carolina is likely in on Anthony. But the nation’s top combo guard is taking things slow, and nobody is sure how seriously North Carolina is pursuing him.
Either way, Anthony won’t get serious about recruiting until after the summer season. This is shaping up to be a blue-blood brawl, so North Carolina shouldn’t bank on landing him.
Behind Anthony, there’s 5-star combo guard Jalen Lecque, who doesn’t appear to be seriously considering North Carolina. Although North Carolina showed some interest in the past, in a recent interview with 247Sports’ Jerry Meyer, Lecque listed several schools that he’s seriously considering, but did not include North Carolina. That gels with the fact that Lecque wasn’t among coach Roy Williams’ frequent visits during the winter.
Those two appeared to be the only two traditional guards on North Carolina’s radar, but there’s also the interesting option of 5-star small forward Wendell Moore. At 6-foot-5, Moore would be on the low end in height for a Division I small forward, but he’s indicated that North Carolina views him as a guard.
Moore was once a strong North Carolina lean, but his recruitment is shaping up to be a battle between the Tar Heels and Duke. Should Moore pick the Blue Devils, there’s also the option that North Carolina stands pat with one guard.
Guard is less of a need after North Carolina grabbed two — 5-star combo guard Coby White and 4-star guard/forward Rechon Black — in the Class of 2018. However, White’s meteoric rise up the recruiting rankings indicates he could be a potential one-and-done option should he have a strong freshman campaign.
If that’s the case, it may be tougher for North Carolina to stick with one guard in 2019, so we could see additional names pop up later in the process.
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