UNC Basketball: Tar Heels and Blue Devils duke it out for this 4-star recruit

The Tar Heels and Blue Devils continue their storied rivalry on, and off the court.

The North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils are just one day away from their second meeting of the season; the latest chapter in the storied rivalry commonly considered the best in American sports.

The implications of Saturday night’s game include first-place in the Atlantic Coast Conference, seeding in the ACC Tournament next week, and a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Other anecdotes include whether or not Zion Williamson will play — though that is, of course, the headline for ESPN — senior night for North Carolina’s Luke Maye, Kenny Williams and Cam Johnson, as well as the possibility that freshmen Coby White and Nassir Little could be playing in their final game at the Smith Center.

Off the court, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils look to be mired in a completely different battle, but not one unlike others they’ve fought in the past.

Related Story: Tar Heels vs Blue Devils part 2

According to Rivals recruiting analyst Corey Evans, North Carolina and Duke are going head-to-head for a highly ranked in-state prospect, much like they did in the cases of Brandon Ingram and Wendell Moore. Despite interest from other big name programs, Evans feels as if the Tar Heels and Blue Devils could end up being the teams to beat in the recruitment of class of 2021 prospect Cam Hayes.

“For as heated as their rivalry is on the court, Duke and North Carolina rarely go head-to-head against each other for an in-state prospect,” Evans said. “It’s happened before (e.g. Brandon Ingram and Wendell Moore) but it’s far from a yearly occurrence, which makes the recruitment of five-star sophomore Cam Hayes that much more intriguing.

A top-20 prospect in the 2021 class, Hayes has not been short on college interest. He has recently taken visits to Duke, NC State, Tennessee and Virginia, and will take another trip to North Carolina – his second in three weeks – on Saturday. While the Wolfpack, Volunteers and Cavaliers remain stronger contenders, Duke and North Carolina appear to have picked things up with him.”

Although Hayes’ other suitors may still hold an edge at this time, Duke and North Carolina appear to be hot on their trail. And given that Hayes is only a sophomore, there’s still loads of time for things to change in his recruitment.

There has, however, been speculation about Hayes moving up a year and reclassifying to the class of 2020. That could impact a number of things including which teams push hardest for him, how he and his family approach his recruitment, and where he feels most comfortable playing his college ball based on rosters and available minutes.

“Hayes’ ability to reclassify into the 2020 class adds another layer to his recruitment,” Evans said. “If the Tar Heels land Cole Anthony, would they push for Hayes’ commitment and then reclassification? If the Blue Devils lose Tre Jones to the NBA Draft, would they pick things up with R.J. Hampton and attempt to reclassify, thus leading to a similar strategy with Hayes? Or, does a dark horse like NC State sneak its way into the mix and snag Hayes’ commitment?”

Hayes is a 6-foot-2, 175-pound point guard at Greensboro Day School. Currently a 4-star prospect and ranked No. 32 according to the 247Sports Composite, he’s the No. 3 point guard in the 2021 class, and the top player in the state of North Carolina.

Next: Recruiting analyst weighs in on UNC target Isaiah Todd

Stick with Keeping it Heel for all the latest on the Hayes recruitment, as well as everything North Carolina basketball.