UNC Basketball: ESPN snubs Tar Heels commit Jeremiah Francis

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN) /

ESPN shows no love for North Carolina’s Jeremiah Francis

The self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports released its latest high school basketball player rankings for the classes of 2019 and 2020.

Although the class of 2020 is still – and will remain for some time – very much in flux, the class of 2019 remained largely unchanged, particularly toward the top. There were, of course, some small changes here and there, movements both slightly north and south. For the most part, though, things looked fairly consistent to lists past.

There was one significant player absent from the list, though. At least in the minds of North Carolina fans.

Related Story: Nassir Little a lottery pick? This expert thinks so.

The Tar Heels’ first – and only – commitment from the 2019 class is from Jeremiah Francis, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard from Pickerington, Ohio. Francis just finished his junior season at Pickerington High School – the same school that current UNC sophomore Sterling Manley attended – and was ranked 60th in the ESPN 60 at the time of his verbal commitment last August.

However, after moving on from the class of 2018 and adding 40 players to the previous 60, ESPN left Francis completely off the list.

What’s peculiar is that the 247Sports Composite – a list that pulls from numerous recruiting forums to rank based on average – currently has Francis ranked No. 51 in the nation. The site’s own top-100 list places Francis smack-dab in the middle at No. 50. And Rivals, one of the biggest and most highly regarded recruiting outlets in the world, ranks Francis 56th in the class of 2019.

Strange, right?

Well, maybe not. ESPN was the only major sports media outlet that kept three Duke players at the top of its 2018 list when every other publication changed theirs. Perhaps it just rolls off the analyst’s tongue better during the couple-dozen nationally televised Duke basketball games in the winter. Or maybe it just fits the narrative slightly better.

It’s worth noting that ESPN was also the only outlet that kept UNC freshman Nassir Little out of a top-5 spot in the rankings. Keep in mind that Little is a near-consensus choice by NBA experts and analysts to be a top-5 selection in next year’s NBA Draft. He apparently isn’t better than five players in his own high school class, though? That’s evidently how ESPN feels.

Maybe they had a legitimate reason to completely drop Francis from the rankings. He might not be getting the kind of exposure and media attention in Central Ohio that’s necessary to stay nationally relevant.

Or maybe it’s the injury that he suffered during his junior season. That certainly didn’t hurt the No. 1 ranking of injury-prone Duke freshman Harry Giles in 2016, though. Same thing for Duke freshman Zion Williamson. But then, maybe we’re beginning to see a trend here.

Or could it be that Francis’ play simply warranted a substantial drop that pushed nearly 50 players ahead of him and out of the top-100?

Next: Matthew Hurt insists that his recruitment is wide open

Maybe so. Or maybe we just shouldn’t really pay attention to what ESPN thinks anymore.