There are few programs in college basketball that can immediately change the face of a player's recruitment. But the University Of North Carolina is one of them. After all, there are few universities in the United States that combine an outstanding academic reputation and deep basketball tradition the way the Powder Blue does. In case there is actually anyone out there who is unaware, it is the home of the third winningest coach in NCAA history in Dean Smith and perhaps the greatest player who has ever played college basketball in Michael Jordan.
Why are we making a big deal of this? Because it now looks as though the Tarheels will end up having a major impact on the recruitment of yet another elite-level prospect--6'8 forward Jabari Parker from Simeon Career Academy in Chicago. Again, for those who may not be aware, Parker is hands down the premier high school basketball player in the state of Illinois and also gets our vote as the #1 player in the nation from the class of 2013. As it turns out, North Carolina and head coach Roy Williams have come forward with a scholarship offer to Parker, joining a long list of high major suitors.
Usually when any D1 program offers a scholarship to a player you take it for what it's worth. But that is not so when it comes to North Carolina. For one, the Tarheels do not offer just anybody. Secondly, when they do extend an offer they can usually be expected to be in the picture right up until the end. Therefore, anyone who doesn't think that North Carolina has now become an immediate player for Parker's services is absolutely crazy. But don't go solely on the basis of our opinion--there are plenty of other facts to back this up.
To begin with, let's once again put the myth of Parker having an actual "top five" list to rest. We have talked to Chicago basketball legend Sonny Parker (Jabari's father) repeatedly throughout the recruiting process and Sonny is emphatic in telling us that his son has never had a true top five despite what has been reported. On the contrary, Sonny says that is a list that has come about as a result of constant pressure from various internet outlets, something that both he and Jabari have grown tired of. As a result of that, Jabari has given a consistent list of five schools to these outlets in order to hopefully tone down the harassment.
This doesn't mean that the schools being mentioned as being in Jabari's top five (more on that later) aren't among the frontrunners because at this point they clearly are. But to say that he has a top five and even more importantly a final five list is premature. With that in mind, it becomes imperative to take a look at what will end up being the two most important factors in Jabari's recruitment.
Sonny has told us that when push comes to shove the two things that will end up being the most influential in Jabari's college decision are 1) his relationship with the head coach and 2) the opportunity to win a national championship. When examining that, it is plain to see that North Carolina fits the bill in both of these areas. Roy Williams has long had a reputation of being a coach who relates extremely well to his players and a number of players who Williams has coached at both North Carolina and Kansas have said that Williams was the reason they chose that school. And as for winning national championships--well, we think that the Tarheels' history in that area speaks for itself.
Don't get us wrong--we are not saying that Jabari Parker is inevitably going to be a Tarheel. All of the other schools that have been reported to be among Parker's top five--Duke, Michigan State, Washington, Illinois and Kansas--meet the aforementioned criteria with respect to Jabari's recruitment, which is why most (if not all) of them can be expected to be around until the end. And then there are other programs such as Connecticut and Ohio State who have turned up the heat considerably since the beginning of July.
However, ultimately something is going to have to give. Everyone can best believe that at some point in the future Parker will visit the Tarheel campus and that he and his family will continue to gather as much information on them as possible. While we have been unwilling to offer too many predictions, we will say this--we believe that North Carolina will undoubtedly be a finalist for Parker's services for all of the reasons previously stated. So obviously the question that beckons is "which school(s) will end up getting cut from the list?"
Fortunately, that is a question that Jabari still has plenty of time to ponder, as his recruiting process is a long way from being over. But as we have said before, we do know this much--it will continue to be run the right way, with Jabari's parents and high school coach Robert Smith being the ones calling the shots, with no outside influences involved.