Ashton Hagans, a 5-star point guard, committed to Kentucky on Tuesday.

North Carolina recruiting: Ashton Hagans’ decision helps clarify Heels’ direction

Cody Pace

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 team. Read his daily notebooks here at 7 p.m. ET Sunday through Thursday. In this edition, we discuss what 5-star point guard Ashton Hagans’ commitment to Kentucky means to the Tar Heels.

Ashton Hagans is Kentucky-bound, too

On Monday, North Carolina lost out on 5-star power forward E.J. Montgomery, its top remaining Class of 2018 target, to Kentucky.

A day later, the Wildcats struck with another Tar Heels prospect, this time landing 5-star Class of 2019 point guard Ashton Hagans.

Hagans had been out of North Carolina’s crosshairs after he committed to Georgia, but coaching staff upheaval opened things back up.

In reality, this isn’t a huge loss for North Carolina. Hagans would’ve been a luxury in the Class of 2019 with 4-star point guard Jeremiah Francis already committed. Another potential option was to have Hagans fill the extra scholarship in the Class of 2018, given that he’s at least considered reclassification, but that also would’ve been a luxury with two guards already signed, and North Carolina would much prefer that spot go to a front-court player. Hagans also has denied the rumors about reclassification.

It’s not even clear to what extent North Carolina was interested in Hagans. Roy Williams did go to see him once, but that was for a high school playoff game where Hagans was facing off against Montgomery, who almost certainly was the primary target of that visit. In addressing his recruitment shortly after de-committing from Georgia, Hagans wrote that North Carolina only reached out to his AAU coach and not directly to his family.

While Hagans was never an optimal option for the open 2018 spot, now all of the attention can go to 5-star power forward Jordan Brown, who recently started hearing from the Tar Heels.

Tar Heels top QB target commits to Florida State

Last week, we surveyed North Carolina’s recruiting board at quarterback in The Dean’s List.

Monday night, that list shrunk by one when 4-star Monroe, N.C., quarterback Sam Howell announced his commitment to Florida State.

Losing out on Howell hurts for the Tar Heels. Not only was he the best quarterback in the state, he was one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in the country, ranking No. 4 at his position and No. 152 nationally, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

While North Carolina was in good standing with Howell early, which included a visit in October and another for junior day in January, the Tar Heels could not maintain it.

Since his last trip to Chapel Hill, Howell has visited Tennessee, Clemson, Ohio State, Florida and Florida State. Over that same span, he received offers from Miami, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon and Arizona State.

The Tar Heels staff now has a decision to make with its quarterback board.

North Carolina could pursue one of the two elite options on the board — pro-style Grant Gunnell or dual-threat Max Duggan. But as it was with Howell, the offer sheets for both prospects is a who’s who of recruiting blue bloods.

Maybe the most realistic option is 3-star pro-style quarterback Connor Bazelak, who is a more recent addition to the board. Bazelak is interested in North Carolina, but that will require swift work because Bazelak indicated to 247Sports’ Bill Greene that he’d like to commit in May or June.

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