Starting Five: UNC's big class, Pangos All-West and more
Late Sunday night, North Carolina came up big when they secured a commit from five-star big man Walker Kessler. His impact on their class and where the Heels go from here along with a recap of the Pangos All-West Frosh/Soph Camp and some commitment catch up in Eric Bossi's Starting Five.
1. NORTH CAROLINA'S BIG CLASS
Over the past few weeks when looking at classes with the potential to go boom or bust, North Carolina was one that we identified because of their involvement with several big-time players. As it turns out, the guy that we were talking about the least, five-star center Walker Kessler, as a legit possibility for them is the one who makes it pretty clear that Roy Williams and the Heels are headed to Boomtown with their 2020 class.
Late Sunday night our Dan McDonald broke the news that Kessler had committed to UNC after returning home from his weekend visit to Chapel Hill. At various times, Auburn, Duke and others had been considered the teams to beat while Williams and Heels kept hanging in there. Now, they have the third ranked class in 2020.
The ability to pair a legit seven-footer who can run and shoot the three with a horse like fellow five-star Day'Ron Sharpe is a true luxury and takes a lot of pressure off of Williams and his staff. Now, they can focus on the big-time perimeter talent they are still in on.
Five-star point guard Caleb Love was on campus with Kessler and the Heels are right at the top of, if not leading, his list. If Cade Cunningham doesn't go to Oklahoma State, the Heels appear to be in the best position for the No. 2 player in the class. Five-star guard Bryce Thompson is still seriously in the mix as are five-star wings Greg Brown, Earl Timberlake and Ziaire Williams. Also on the horizon are top 50 players like Puff Johnson whose older brother played at UNC.
The bottom line here is that UNC has loaded up their frontcourt and given the way things are trending, it's hard to see them not landing at least one or two more of their primary targets and putting together a monster class.
2. WRIGHT, SHAW HEADLINE PANGOS ALL-WEST
Each year I like to head out to Southern California for the Pangos All-West Frosh/Soph camp. It's a great way to get an early look at some top West Coast talent and the event has been the launching pad for some elite talents. This year's crop of talent wasn't the deepest I've ever seen, but that doesn't take away from the outstanding work put in by the camp's Co-MVP's, five-star power forward Kijani Wright and four-star small forward Aidan Shaw.
Ranked No. 10 in our first ranking of the class of 2022 and a key piece of USA Basketball's U16 squad during the summer, Wright is a physical beast who is put together like a young Julius Randle. He channeled his inner Randle all weekend long seeking out contact, demanding the ball and menacing pretty much everybody else in camp. He's got early offers from Arizona, California, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Vanderbilt.
A long and athletic 6-foot-7 wing, Shaw actually attends high school at Stilwell (Kans.) Blue Valley just a few miles from my home in the Kansas City area. His development over the last year has been impressive. Physically, he looks very similar to a young Terrance Ferguson with his long limbs and slender frame. He's not quite the freak athlete that Ferguson was, but he is very athletic in his own right and played with tremendous energy the entire camp. He's pretty versatile and recently picked up an offer from Vanderbilt. Missouri, Oklahoma State, TCU and more are jumping in and he looks primed for a big sophomore season.
Andrews is a good sized point guard with some burst who gets to the rim, creates for others and can score when needed. He's already ranked in 2022's top 50 with offers from Arizona, Northern Arizona, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Utah and acquitted himself nicely.
A product of Fresno, Hunter just missed the initial top 50 for 2022 but is a nice sized shooting guard with a terrific looking jumper and some pop in his legs.
Kohler is a big man who is tough, plays hard on both ends and has some seriously advanced low post footwork and touch for a big man.
Finally, Thompson was the find of the camp. At around 6-foot-5 with very long arms and a baby face, the sophomore is a skilled wing who appears to have tremendous upside. He's still an unknown to college coaches, but word of his performance will get out quickly and I bet he'll see plenty of coaches come through his gym the next few weeks.
3. NORTHWESTERN ADDS BIG
The No. 39 ranked center in the senior class, Nicholson is a big kid with a great frame to add mass to in the weight room. He runs well enough, has very good hands and shows soft touch and skill out to at least 12 feet. He looks like a Big Ten center should look physically and he has the skills to develop into a nice player. He's a very nice start to their class.
I also think the Wildcats should be getting more good news in the relatively near future. If behind-the-scenes talk is to believed, high priority guard target Ty Berry is nearing a decision. The combo guard from Kansas took a visit in August and has also seen what looks to be the primary competition, Minnesota, officially as well. It is recruiting so things can always change, but I've had my futurecast pick in for Northwestern with Berry for a while now and I feel he's on the cusp of making it happen.
4. COLORADO SCORES HIGH UPSIDE WING
It didn't make big headlines nationally because there aren't many who know a lot about him, but I've got a feeling that a few years from now we may look back on Colorado's landing of in-state shooting guard Dominique Clifford as a big moment.
I have not seen Clifford in person and the video that I've been able to get a hold of isn't the best, but he's a guy that I feel has a chance to shoot up the charts once we get a stronger evaluation on him. He's long, he's rangy, he can put the ball on the floor, he's got a good looking jump shot and he's plenty athletic.
I've checked with some strong sources locally in Colorado and they have raved to me about Clifford's upside and feel that he is an absolute steal for Tad Boyle and his staff. Keep in mind, Boyle has proven to be pretty good at finding under the radar wings and guards over the past few years. In Clifford, he just might have his next Alec Burks, Andre Roberson, Derrick White or well, you get the picture.
Now, I'm not ready to go out and say Clifford is an NBA player like those guys. Just that he appears to be an under the radar recruiting win like them and that making sure we do our homework on him will be a priority as he completes his senior season.
5. MISSISSIPPI STATE GETS RUGGED FORWARD
A standout at Olive Branch (Miss.) High and with Team Thad on the Under Armour Association grassroots circuit, Matthew is one of those guys that you just love to watch play.
First and foremost he's tough. He backs down from nobody and is one of those kids that loves the challenge of playing against the big rep guys. Positionally he's a bit of a tweener who can play at both the three or the four. He rebounds, he runs the floor, he does dirty work and he is an excellent defender.
Guys like him become glue guys and locker room leaders by the time they finish their careers and Matthews figures to have a good one in Starkville.