Projecting a recruit’s impact on a basketball program is exactly that. We don’t know — at least in a factual sense — what top-tier Player-X is actually bringing to the table. We are guessing. Sometimes in an educated fashion. Other times, well, not so much.
With that fine caveat out-of-the-way, Coby White’s commitment to the North Carolina Tar Heels does have tangible ramifications for the program. Not only on the hardwood, but in the continued growth of the idea that Roy Williams is going to be coaching with the university for the foreseeable future.
That last part is the one of the most important aspects of this commitment.
One player is one player, and that player can end up being as great as Ben Simmons, but the long-term impact a coach has on a program will forever outweigh that of a singular player. After all, a good-to-great player’s lifespan in the collegiate ranks can be as little as one year. A great coach’s can be decades.
As for White specifically, he’s a 6-foot-3 talent who plays for Greenfield High School in North Carolina. As far as how he is considered as a prospect, he’s a five-star guy who is ranked by ESPN as the 21st best overall prospect the 2018 class. Also according to ESPN, he is currently slotted as the fifth best point guard.
Obviously, 2018 is still a bit away. White’s projections can be altered between now and then. For all we know, he can have some random and absurd growth spurt, which results in him being a seven-foot big man with point guard skills. If that were to happen, it would be safe to assume he’d end up being the best prospect in the entire class. The flip-end can also apply, as eligibility issues or injuries can derail him from his current projections.
Really, all I’m trying to say is that so many variables are at play between now and 2018 that discussing this commitment in factual terms can be dangerous. Yet, a discussion can still be had.
While I don’t have vast knowledge of White’s abilities firsthand, it is easy to understand why so many in and around Chapel Hill are already excited for the future. White marks the second top-60 recruit North Carolina has landed in the 2018 class. Moreover, despite it being incredibly early, the Tar Heels are positioning themselves as likely to have a top-five (if not the top) recruiting class in the entire nation for that season.
That is important in the realm of perception. With the Kentucky Wildcats — and the Duke Blue Devils for the 2016 class — widely considered the terminators of the recruiting trail, it is important for North Carolina to keep pace.
Yes, that’s only a battle taking place in the land of perception, but high school recruits take notice of these things. It is part of the reason as to why John Calipari does so well on the recruiting trail. High school kids see his recruiting classes go to Kentucky, play relatively well, and go on to the NBA. As of recent history, while UNC has had guys go pro, it hasn’t necessarily been in the expedited fashion Kentucky or Duke players have.
With White committing now, it also makes recruiting the rest of the 2018 class — and beyond, for that matter — much easier. Great players tend to want to play alongside other great players. With UNC already having two of those already — barring decommits — Williams can use that as part of his sales pitch to other potential recruits.
Success begets success, or whatever.
Anyway, none of this makes an impact as of right now. However, as time moves on and UNC continues to build its recruiting classes moving forward, landing prospects like White this early in the process tends to be fruitful from an overall standpoint. In a way, even if abstractly, this recruiting win in the “right now” can later be looked at as the precursor to all the on-the-floor winning being done later.
The small stuff matters.