UNC Basketball: The Importance of the 2021 Recruiting Class

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 16: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts at the start of the second half against the Lipscomb Bisons during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 16, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 16: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts at the start of the second half against the Lipscomb Bisons during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 16, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

How important is the 2021 UNC Basketball recruiting class for Roy Williams and the Tar Heels?

According to 247 Sports’ Basketball Team Rankings, the UNC Basketball program has the second-best incoming freshman class. This ranks as the Tar Heels best recruiting class since 2012 and it comes at a critical time for the program.

The Tar Heels’ recruiting class is six players deep, and features players who can ultimately help fill the team’s weaknesses into strengths.

Williams (and his staff) added two big men with a lot of potential and a guard who could quickly take over the point guard position. Along with those additions, the Tar Heels added players who can score (and shoot from deep), something that last year’s squad struggled mightily with. Add these new additions to returning players, and the Tar Heels may be brewing something special.

The 2020 recruiting class may ultimately be one of (if not the) best group of prospects that the Tar Heels have brought in during the Roy Williams era. This class is definitely an important one for North Carolina, but is the upcoming 2021 recruiting class even more vital for overall state of the program? Let’s take a look.

The Current Roster

When thinking about the 2021 recruiting class, you have to think about the current Tar Heels roster. As you’ll see, it’s not easy to predict just who will still be around in 2021, but we can definitely explore all of the possibilities.

Let’s start by taking a look at the players who will definitely be moving on after this season’s end.

The Senior Class

Every year, most schools are faced with loss of graduating seniors. This year’s Tar Heels squad features four senior members:

  • Garrison Brooks
  • Walker Miller
  • Andrew Platek
  • K.J. Smith

Looking ahead to 2021, you know that the Tar Heels will definitely have at least have four roster spots to fill.

In this group, the Tar Heels lose two big men and two guards. Brooks is the biggest subtraction, as he has developed into one of college basketball’s best players over the years.

The Last of Bacot?

If you look at the team’s underclassmen (not including the freshman), Armando Bacot would be the most-likely player of this group to declare for the NBA Draft after this season.

When Bacot arrived in Chapel Hill last year, there was a growing sense that he could be a “one-and-done” player.

Bacot showed flashes during his freshman campaign, but definitely struggled at times. His play time showed areas in which he could improve both offensively and defensively.

Instead of testing his luck in the NBA Draft, the 20-year-old decided to come back for his sophomore season. It’s a decision that could ultimately benefit him down the road.

He’ll be challenged this year by some of the new faces on campus, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bacot improve (similar to how Brooks developed over the years). If he has a good sophomore campaign, Bacot may decide to enter his name in the NBA Draft, leaving another potential roster spot for Roy Williams to fill.

Possible “One-And-Done” Players

The “one-and-done” players have been a re-occurring theme throughout college basketball. Over the last two seasons, the Tar Heels have had their fair share of “one-and-done” guys.

Going back to the 2018-2019 season, the Tar Heels lost two freshmen to the NBA Draft: Nassir Little and Coby White.

Last season, all the talk surrounded highly-touted guard Cole Anthony. It was all but certain that he wasn’t going to stay long-term at the college level. Even after a somewhat disappointing year in Chapel Hill, Anthony decided to forgo his remaining eligibility to enter the NBA Draft.

Little and Anthony were expected to leave after one season. White was seen as more of a “project,” but his stellar freshman campaign ultimately led him to the NBA.

The point here is: you just never know with most incoming freshman.

Some may develop and thrive quickly. Others may need time to adjust to the college game. Either way, college coaches and recruiters are faced with the challenges now of “what happens if this player ends up staying only one season at our university?”

In regards to this year’s recruiting class, you can take your bets as to what players may only last one year in Chapel Hill. If you’re looking for the safest bet, Caleb Love may be your answer.

For the third straight year, Williams will hand the keys to the offense to a new lead guard. The 5-star recruit Love will definitely get his chance to make an impact right away on this Tar Heels squad.

If Love produces the way the Tar Heels think he is capable of, he may not be in Chapel Hill very long.

You can make the case for guys like Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler being potential “one-and-done” guys, but due to the Tar Heels big man depth, both may need some additional time at the college level to develop.

The Possible Returning Players

Subtracting the Seniors, here are the players who have eligibility for the 2021 campaign:


  • Leaky Black
  • R.J. Davis
  • Anthony Harris
  • Caleb Love
  • Kerwin Walton
  • Creighton Lebo*


  • Armando Bacot
  • Puff Johnson
  • Walker Kessler
  • Sterling Manley
  • Ryan McAdoo
  • Day’Ron Sharpe

*-Denotes Walk-On Player

Just like “one-and-done” players, you simply can not predict transfers either. This past season alone, the Tar Heels saw Jeremiah Francis and Brandon Huffman leave the program.

If Love, Bacot, or any other player leaves after the season, that would leave even more holes for the Tar Heels moving forward.

This is where the 2021 recruiting class could come into play.

Why is the 2021 Recruiting Class so Important?

As of now, the Tar Heels only have one commitment so far for the Class of 2021. Forward Dontrez Styles committed to North Carolina back in April, but the Tar Heels are a bit behind in regards to this year’s recruiting trail.

Along with Styles, the Tar Heels have a walk-on player set to join the roster. Four-star defensive end Keshawn Silver announced that he will play both football and basketball at North Carolina.


Silver is an athletic presence who could definitely help the basketball team, Styles and Silver are simply not enough to add for this recruiting class. The Tar Heels still need to bring in more talent with this class, and could look to add another 3-4 players (or even more) into the mix.

The recruiting trail has been slow so far for UNC (as you can tell by only one commitment). Although they lack in commitments, the Tar Heels are definitely trying to bring in as much talent as possible.

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Currently, the program has nine scholarship offers on the table for possible recruits, according to 247 Sports. They have been mentioned in conversations regarding some five-star prospects, including Hunter Sallis, who could be a possible replacement at point guard if Caleb Love is a “one-and-done” player.

Along with possibly needing another lead guard, the Tar Heels could need some additional front court depth. They could look to add to their wing position, and let’s face it: you can never have enough shooters!

Make no mistake: the Tar Heels are currently heavily recruiting their top targets. They are well-aware of what they need for their future roster, and will do everything in their power to attract the top talent to Chapel Hill.

Over time, the number of commitments will change, and UNC will add talent to what they already have within their program.

After such a great recruiting class in 2020, it will be hard to top this year’s crop of talent that was added to the mix. However, the 2021 class may be even more important, as this group will look to add to what Roy Williams and crew have already started to build. It is important for the Tar Heels to go “all out” and bring in another good recruiting class to add to this already talented roster.

Will they match or even top this year’s recruiting class? Only time will tell. Regardless of the outcome, this class is vitally important, as they have the potential to play an important role in adding to the team’s talent pool as they chase another National Championship.

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