Dexter Strickland has always been a family man. On Saturday, the five-star junior guard from St. Patrick (N.J.) gathered his family together and announced he was ready to welcome a new family into his life. Strickland told his loved ones he is ready to take his game to North Carolina for college.
Strickland made his decision public on Sunday at Madison Square Garden after his St. Patrick team defeated St. Raymond's, the top team from New York, in the Nike Super 6 challenge.
Strickland said he initially announced his decision amongst friends and family on Saturday.
"I had all of my family at my grandmother's house. We had all of the food out and just enjoying each other's company. It was great to tell them all at the same time. I think some of them knew but not all of them. I made my announcement with them. It went pretty good," he said.
North Carolina didn't just land Strickland, a major prize in the 2009 class. They landed an entire new branch to the family tree. Strickland and a number of his family members took a motor coach to Chapel Hill last year for an unofficial visit to see the school as a group.
Strickland said the family atmosphere in Chapel Hill was a major part in his decision.
"I think North Carolina and Roy Williams has a great relationship with the players. They play like a family. They play like a team. Before every game they get together and they pray," Strickland said. "I asked some of the players about how their relationship is with the coaches, all of the coaches and they had nothing but great things to say about all of the coaches. They have a good family dynamic. That played a good part in it."
Will there be a constant RV convoy from New Jersey to North Carolina during his career? Strickland said he doesn't see that happening.
"I think it's only an hour and a half plane ride so my mom will probably be doing that now," Strickland said with a laugh.
The visit with his family, Strickland says, was a vital part in his decision-making process. The trip to Chapel Hill allowed him to see all of the angles that he wanted to see.
"There is something special about it. When I was down there, I felt like I was home. When I walked into the arena, I was like 'Wow.' It is a great campus, the players are great, the coaching staff speaks for itself. They are all of good character. I didn't see anything that I didn't like," Strickland said. "Everything is good. I think I made the right decision."
With the addition of Strickland, North Carolina is on one of the greatest recruiting runs in the modern era.
Texas forward John Henson committed on Jan. 3, tipping the dominoes in what has become a wild 10 days of action. The following day five-star twins David and Travis Wear of Mater Dei (Calif.) announced they were ready to suit up for the Tar Heels.
On Jan. 9, sophomore Reggie Bullock of Kinston (N.C.) committed to Roy Williams. Strickland quickly followed suit this weekend.
"I don't know them that well," Strickland said of his fellow commitments. "I know Larry Drew (a 2008 signee) a little bit. We played together at the Steve Nash camp (in July). The young kid, Kendall Marshall, text all the time. We've become really close.
"(The timing) was a coincidence. It really was. (Marshall) would text me every time somebody would commit and he'd ask me when I was next," Strickland said. "It wasn't like it was planned."
All of the 2009 prospects are counted amongst the top 25 players in the class nationally. All eyes are now focused on New Jersey wing Dominic Cheek, who is strongly considering North Carolina, too. Strickland say he hopes Cheek, who he calls "a good friend," jumps on board in the near future.
"I don't know what he does. Hopefully he makes his decision this year and not next. And hopefully he comes to North Carolina and not Villanova," Strickland said.
Strickland has had great success at the Dean E. Smith Center. For two years in a row, he's led the Tournament of Champions in scoring in May. His ability to play both guard positions will be counted on during his college days.
"Coach Williams sees me at the combo guard spot and just taking control in the game," Strickland said. "I think I fit that program really well and I can play my game. I won't have to adjust that much because their style of play is similar to St. Patrick's style of play. I'll be used to it."
The process of coming up with a decision was a difficult one, he said.
"It was pretty hard. My top three schools were Michigan State, Florida, and of course, North Carolina. It was tough because all of those schools were great. Everybody is nice and everything was nice at each spot. I was stressing out because I wasn't too sure.
"After a day after my visit to North Carolina, I was like, 'Wow, I want to go there.' I told my family and they agreed. Everybody had something good to say about North Carolina. Not that anyone would have anything bad to say about Florida or Michigan State but North Carolina was the right decision for me."