North Carolina will add junior college linebacker Fabby Desir to a 2011 class that was ranked No. 17 in the nation by scout.com on signing day.
Desir will sign with the Tar Heels at noon today, Lackawanna (Pa.) College coach Mark Duda said.
"He's a super strong kid, incredibly tenacious, goes after the ball very, very well," Duda said.
A converted running back and safety, Desir played outside linebacker for Lackawanna but could play any of the three linebacker positions for the Tar Heels, Duda said.
Desir is 6-foot and 230 pounds and also had considered Cincinnati and Ball State, and received late interest from Alabama, Duda said. Desir visited North Carolina last week and will sign this morning at Scranton High, where he played in high school.
Winter Park, Fla., senior guard Austin Rivers, a Duke signee who's ranked the No. 1 player in the Class of 2011, was selected Tuesday to play in the 2011 Jordan Brand Classic, scheduled for April 16 at Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena.
In an exclusive telephone interview, he talked about his goals for the Jordan Brand and McDonald's All-America games, his plans for improvement, and the effect his father, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, has had on him:
Q: You’ll be playing in some postseason all-star games here soon. What do you want to do in them?
A: Most importantly, win. Everything is more fun and enjoyable when you win. So just, go in there, play hard and win. I think to have fun. . .and strengthen relationships with my friends. A lot of guys [I know] are going to be there. It’s always nice to kick back and relax and hang out with players that are in similar situations that you are. It will be nice to go there, see some guys, compete and play basketball. Hopefully I can just do my thing and come away with a win.
Q: What are your goals between now and when you come to Duke? I guess you’re probably coming in the summer?
A: Just to continue to get better, improve on my skills and just keep developing and getting stronger. That’s my main focus right now, to strengthen my skills and my body.
Q: Any particular skills you feel you need to work on?
A: I’ll say my mid-range as far as, I have a really nice three-ball and a really nice handle where I can get into the paint and finish or dunk on someone or something like that. I think mid-range is always a lost art of the game, so it’s always nice to have everything. I really do have a strong mid-range, but it’s just to work on everything, really, and get ready to have a defensive mind set. With Duke, they pick up a lot of times fullcourt man and Coach K and those [coaches] emphasize defense. That’s one thing I want to get better on.
Q: How much of an influence has your father had on you? You seem to understand the game extremely well. How much is he a part of that?
A: He’s a big part of it. I’ve been around the game my whole life, so I’ve gotten to see and meet and talk to a lot of different NBA players and see how their lives are and how they live. And I grew up around my Dad, who knows the game as well as anybody. He’s always taught me right from wrong as far as basketball, what to say and what not to say, what to do and what not to do. I think just having him in my corner my whole life has been a benefit playing basketball.
Q: You scored 46 points in a game as a high school sophomore? Is that right? How did you do it?
A: I’ve always been a scorer. I’ve always been a great scorer. That’s one thing I’ve always had confidence in myself as far as me thinking I’m better than anybody. I’ve always had a mind set where I’ve always felt you need more than one person to guard me. Especially now that I’m a lot better than I was back then. They basically just played man, and it was just one on one. And that’s not going to work out too well. I got hot. And things got going and shots started falling.
Q: Is that the most you’ve ever scored?
A: Last year, I think I scored 47 against somebody. I’ve scored 40 a lot of times. I think I’ve scored 40 four times this year and five times last year. I think 47 is my high in a high school game.
Q: How did international play [on the USA under-18 select team] help you?
A: That was actually one of the best experiences I’ve had playing basketball, just getting a taste of what it’s like over there [in international basketball]. It’s really similar. The only difference is, you’ve got to be a lot more focused on the defensive end because they take their time to get shots up and they’re really smart basketball players. They’re not as athletic as us over here so what they rely on is their IQ. So you really have to be focused on is the defensive end, which is fun.
High-scoring guard Austin Rivers anticipates cheers and perhaps some boos when he plays in the Jordan Brand Classic at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena at 8 p.m. on April 16.
Rivers joins Michael Gbinije as one of two Duke signees on the roster announced this afternoon for the high-profile high school all-star game. The game will have a distinct Duke-Carolina flavor, as North Carolina signees James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston also are on the roster.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of Duke people there to support me and a lot of North Carolina people hating on me,” Rivers said. “At the end of the day, it’s all good. The Duke and North Carolina fans are the best fans in basketball, in my opinion.”
High Point’s Quincy Miller, who has signed with Baylor, and Winston-Salem’s Sir’Dominic Pointer (St. John’s) will provide homegrown talent to the game, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The game began as the Capital Classic and was played three years in Washington, D.C., before being held the last six years in New York. Moving the game to Charlotte takes it to an area with strong college basketball fan support.
“The people from North Carolina are definitely going to be excited about seeing the North Carolina and Duke players,” McAdoo said. “We’re looking forward to that, showing our talents to the UNC future fans.”
The game will be televised on ESPN2. The event also will include an international game at 3:30 p.m. and a regional game at 5:30 p.m. featuring top high school players from North Carolina in an East vs. West format.
Sixteen top 17-and-under players from around the world will compete in the international game. Rosters for the international and regional games will be announced at a later date.
The main event will feature the top five players in the Class of 2011 according to ESPNU’s rankings. Winter Park, Fla., standout Rivers is ranked No. 1, followed by two Kentucky-bound players, Anthony Davis of Chicago and Michael Gilchrist of Elizabeth, N.J. Miller is No. 4, and McAdoo, a forward from Norfolk Christian in Virginia, is No. 5.
The game’s sponsor, Jordan Brand, is a division of Nike, Inc.
McAdoo will be returning to familiar territory because his sister, Kelsey McAdoo, played basketball for the Charlotte 49ers. He said he has enjoyed visiting Charlotte because of its diverse selection of restaurants and is looking forward to coming back because of Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan’s history as a former Tar Heel guard.
“Charlotte being the team that Michael Jordan owns and of course, Michael Jordan’s connection with North Carolina basketball, and with P.J. in the game also, I’m really looking forward to it,” McAdoo said.
Tickets for the Jordan Brand Classic are now on sale at all Ticketmaster locations, the Time Warner Cable box office, online at ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.
Jordan Brand, a division of Nike, announced today that the following players have been selected for the Jordan Brand Classic, a high school all-star game to be played at Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena on April 16:
ESPNU 100 Rank, Player, Name (Home/college choice)
No. 1 Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla./Duke)
No. 2 Anthony Davis (Chicago/Kentucky)
No. 3 Michael Gilchrist (Elizabeth, N.J./Kentucky)
North Broward (Fla.) Prep coach Scott Williams said 6-foot-10 Josip Mikulic reminds N.C. State assistant coach Monte Towe of Dwayne Schintzius, a 7-footer who played for Towe and Norm Sloan at Florida in the 1980s and later in the NBA.
Mikulic, a current high school junior who is originally from Croatia, has committed to N.C. State, Williams said.
"He's an extremely good shooter," Williams said. "He has NBA range and is very fundamentally sound for a big kid. He's a good, quality basketball player."
Williams said growing up overseas, where players are known for developing their perimeter skills, helped Mikulic hone a good 3-point stroke. Mikulic also had a late growth spurt.
"Up until two or three years ago he was a guard," Williams said. "He was 6-2, 6-3. He was a perimeter player, and he grew into that body."
Mikulic planned to commit to the first school that showed a commitment to him, and N.C. State was that school, Williams said.
"He's a very loyal kid, and I think he thought Coach [Sidney] Lowe could develop his game," Williams said.
Rasheed Sulaimon gave Duke its second top-20 commitment in a week in the Class of 2012 when he chose the Blue Devils after visiting campus for Wednesday's game against North Carolina.
Sulaimon, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound shooting guard from Strake Jesuit College Prep in Houston, Texas, is rated No. 19 in the class by scout.com. Earlier in the week, 6-8 forward Alex Murphy of St. Mark's School in Southborough, Mass., committed to Duke. Murphy is ranked No. 11 in the class by scout.com.
Marland Lowe, who coaches Sulaimon for the Houston Hoops club team, said Sulaimon was impressed with the atmosphere at Cameron Indoor Stadium and the academics at Duke. Lowe said Sulaimon is an excellent student who also considered Texas, Baylor, Arizona, Stanford and Harvard.
Lowe said Duke's combination of academic prestige and college basketball tradition led him to select the Blue Devils. Although Sulaimon plays shooting guard, Lowe said he can create shots for teammates and defend well enough to play point guard.
"He's a stud," Lowe said. "He's a high-volume scorer, a great defender, a great teammate, a great kid from a great family."
Sulaimon's strengths, according to Lowe, are his ability to create shots for himself and score off screens. Sulaimon also prides himself on being able to guard the ball and defend the opposing team's best player.
Since Roy Williams began coaching at North Carolina at the beginning of the 2003-04 season, the Tar Heels and Duke have met seven times.
Duke won the first three and swept the last two in the 2010 NCAA title season. In between, North Carolina won seven of nine on its way to two NCAA championships.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who’s 34-35 in his career against North Carolina, has a chance to get to .500 if Duke wins tonight.
Those are the results that really matter – the on-court wins and losses. The long-term success of both programs shows that both coaches excel at team building and game planning.
They also both have done an excellent job recruiting. Duke and North Carolina wouldn’t be winning ACC and NCAA titles if they weren’t getting good players.
In this area, though, Williams has a slight edge over Krzyzewski, according to rivals.com’s team recruiting rankings. Neither class was ranked in the top 25 by rivals.com in 2004.
Since then, North Carolina signed more highly rated classes than Duke four times in six years (2005 to 2010). Here is the breakdown:
Class UNC rank Duke rank
2010 4 10
2009 5 8
2008 11 27
2007 NR 8
2006 1 5
2005 9 2
Year by year, here is how those classes shaped up. In 2005, Duke signed Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus in what was expected to be one of the nation’s top classes. But North Carolina got Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green, who helped lead the team to two Final Fours and the 2009 NCAA title.
In 2006, Brandan Wright, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington gave the Tar Heels the top-rated players at three positions. Lawson and Ellington played pivotal roles in the team’s NCAA tournament success in 2008 and 2009. But Duke signed three players – Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek – who led the Blue Devils to the 2010 title as seniors.
In 2007, Williams had a deep roster and put all his focus on one player. If you were only going to recruit one guy in the class, Kevin Love was the right guy. But he went to UCLA, and North Carolina didn’t sign anybody. Duke’s signees included Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, who have made huge contributions the last two seasons.
In 2008, Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller led North Carolina’s class. Duke got Elliot Williams, an excellent guard who transferred after one season, and Miles Plumlee.
In 2009, Duke signed Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Andre Dawkins, who all have shown promise as sophomores. Similarly, John Henson and Dexter Strickland led a North Carolina class that’s solid as well.
In 2010, each school landed an outstanding player. Harrison Barnes was rated the No. 1 recruit in the nation by many, and chose North Carolina after also considering Duke. The Blue Devils signed Kyrie Irving, who might have been the best guard in the nation before a toe injury sidelined him after eight games. Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall gave the Tar Heels what appears to be a stronger overall class, as they have been more productive so far than Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston for Duke.
All-Star Sports recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons agrees that North Carolina may have had a slight edge in recruiting over Duke since Williams’ arrival, but it’s not much.
“It’s so close, it’s too close to call from my observations,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons also said that Duke’s class for 2011 appears better. The spring signing period isn’t over, so it’s possible that both teams could add more players. North Carolina may look to bring in a point guard after Larry Drew II’s sudden departure.
Only Kentucky and St. John’s have stronger classes for 2011 than Duke, according to Gibbons. Guard Austin Rivers, who’s committed to the Blue Devils, generally is considered one of the top three players overall in the nation. Gibbons said North Carolina (led by forward James McAdoo) has a top-10 class for 2011.
“The point is, here are two programs that literally are going head to head in many instances for the very elite players in the nation,” Gibbons said, “and to be able to accomplish that speaks volumes for the head coaches and the tradition of their programs.”
Alex Murphy, one of the most skilled forwards in the Class of 2012, has committed to Duke, St. Mark’s School (Southborough, Mass.) coach David Lubick confirmed by e-mail.
Murphy is 6-foot-8 with strong ball handling and perimeter shooting skills. He is rated the No. 9 player overall in his class by veteran All-Star Sports analyst Bob Gibbons.
"It’s really almost a seamless fit in terms of Duke’s style of play and his skill set," said ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep. "He is a small forward with really good size, solid ball skills, a better athlete than first glance. And I think this is a guy that can play in the lane and on the perimeter."
Telep and Gibbons both compare Murphy's skill set to that of current Duke senior forward Kyle Singler, who was the most outstanding player at the Final Four last year as the Blue Devils captured the NCAA title.
They said there is no guarantee that Murphy will develop the way Singler has, but can play small forward and power forward, just like Singler.
"He’s not as physically strong and advanced right now," Gibbons said, "but compare them at the same level as juniors in high school, I think Alex might get a little higher mark than Kyle."
Like Singler, whose father, mother and brother all have played Division I sports at Pac-10 schools, Murphy has strong family ties in basketball. His father, Jay Murphy, played for Boston College and in the NBA in the 1980s.
Alex's brother, Erik, is a sophomore forward at Florida. Their mother, Paivi, played for the Finnish national team.
On the morning after national signing day today, outside linebacker Shareef Rashad called coach Butch Davis to get North Carolina's 2012 recruiting class started.
Rashad, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound outside linebacker from Episcopal High in Jacksonville, Fla., committed to the Tar Heels during the phone call.
He had visited the school unofficially last summer.
He chose North Carolina over South Carolina, Duke and Central Florida, where his brother, Washington Redskins defensive back Sha'reff Rashad, played in college.
"He's got a little genetic thing going there," Espiscopal coach David Hess said of Shakeel's abilities. "He does well out in space and he covers a lot of ground."
Rashad is a high school teammate of Class of 2012 wide receiver Erich Schneider, who already is the lone commitment in Duke's next recruiting class. Hess said Rashad was happy to get the recruiting process behind him and plans to graduate from high school and enroll early in January of 2012 and go through spring practice.
CHAPEL HILL - North Carolina coach Butch Davis stood in front of the podium this afternoon with a look of satisfaction on his face.
"Today was a very good day," Davis said at his news conference to announce the Tar Heels' 2011 class on national signing day.
Rivals.com has ranked North Carolina's class No. 3 in the ACC. The Tar Heels signed 10 players on offense, 14 on defense and kicker/punter Miller Snyder of Charlotte.
The Tar Heels got a big signing day commitment from McKeesport (Pa.) defensive tackle Delvon Simmons, who's rated the No. 80 player in the class by rivals.com.
They accomplished the strong class despite an NCAA investigation into the program that caused 14 players to miss at least one game and seven to miss the entire season in 2010. North Carolina officials have said they don't know how or when the NCAA will rule on possible sanctions for the program.
But Davis said athletic director Dick Baddour researched similar cases in the past and what the sanctions might be and shared his findings with parents of prospects who were concerned.
"First and foremost, we were always honest with the kids we recruited," Davis said. ". . .We never tried to paint a picture of things that weren't realistic."
McKeesport (Pa.) defensive tackle Delvon Simmons, who's rated the No. 80 player overall in the nation by rivals.com, gave North Carolina's recruiting class a huge boost with his commitment Wednesday on national signing day.
Here's what McKeesport coach Jim Ward said about Simmons in a telephone interview:
Q: Why did he choose UNC?
A: He thought the capus was absolutely beautiful. It was far enough away from home but not too far away from home. Butch Davis’ ability to develop defensive linemen was very important. The graduation rate of their players, and being able to play in a pure 4-3.
Q: How important was playing in the 4-3?
A: It was really important. There’s a lot of schools that are starting to get into the 3-4. But it’s such a contrast to the 4-3. And to me, Delvon’s God-given ability is his athleticism and his ability to get off the ball and be disruptive. And that doesn’t lend itself to playing in that kind of scheme.
We really were limited in the end to just a couple schools that ran a real 4-3, and that was USC and North Carolina. And that’s something that was important to Delvon, to have that opportunity to be a three-technique defensive tackle and do what he feels most comfortable doing.
Q: What’s he like as a kid?
A: He’s a great kid. He’s very engaging. He’s got an incredible personality, a laugh and a smile that kind of lights up a room. He’s a very, very fierce competitor, and he’s a kid that’s very easy to like. I think he’ll be well liked by his teammates. I think he’ll be popular among his teammates. And just overall has an outstanding personality. I think North Carolina is going to be really excited to get him.
Q: Physically, what are his assets? You mentioned his athleticism.
A: He’s a little over 6-feet-5. He’s about 275 pounds. He’s got a frame in which he’s probably going to grow to about 300 pounds, or maybe a couple pounds more. Very long arms. Very explosive. And just is a kid that when you see him and you see him at 275, you think he’s probably 250 until you put him on the scale. That’s the kind of size that he has.
Stephone Anthony, who entered the day as the top uncommitted prospect in North Carolina, added to an outstanding Clemson recruiting class late this morning when he signed with the Tigers.
Anthony, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker from Anson County High in Wadesboro, N.C., also was considering North Carolina, Florida and Virginia Tech. He is rated the No. 2 player in North Carolina by The Charlotte Observer.
Clemson and coach Dabo Swinney entered the day with a top-25 class, and added five-star linebackers in Anthony and Tony Steward of Jacksonville, Fla., who had also been considering Florida State.
Anthony's signing, announced at a news conference at his school, means that the top six prospects in North Carolina all are leaving the state.
Scout.com recruiting analyst Miller Safrit said the signing of McKeesport (Pa.) High defensive lineman Delvon Simmons, announced minutes ago, is an impressive accomplishment for North Carolina's coaching staff.
Scout.com is among the outlets reporting Simmons' commitment.
"It definitely puts a big stamp of approval, a big cherry on top of the class for this North Carolina class that a lot of people were wondering about," Safrit said.
Safrit was impressed because Simmons never took an official visit to North Carolina and made only an unofficial visit in June. He also said the Tar Heels' 4-3 scheme might have played a role.
According to the Florida Times-Union's live signing day blog, Raines High in Jacksonville, Fla., has news for North Carolina and N.C. State fans.
Sam Smiley, a 6-foot, 170-pound cornerback at Raines, has committed to North Carolina. He's rated a two-star prospect by scout.com. North Carolina's official web site reported that his letter of intent arrived at 11:01 a.m.
Chris Jones, a defensive tackle who committed to N.C. State last week, will not sign with the Wolfpack, according to the Times-Union. He will sign with Illinois.
A flurry of early-morning letters of intent have hit the fax machines at North Carolina and N.C. State, and so far the only surprises are a pair of two-star linebackers.
North Carolina added Keeon Virgile of North Miami Beach, and N.C. State signed Michael Peek of Loganville, Ga.
There’s still more drama to come on signing day, but here’s an early look at the letters of intent received by North Carolina and N.C. State, as reported by the schools’ official websites:
NORTH CAROLINA SIGNEES
Travis Riley, RB, Kannapolis, N.C.
T.J. Thorpe, WR, Durham
Landon Turner, OL, Harrisonburg, Va.
Marquise Williams, QB, Charlotte
Sylvester Williams, DL, Jefferson City, Mo.
Miller Snyder, PK, Charlotte
Tyler Alberts, ATH, Clemmons, N.C.
Alex Dixon, DB, Clearwater, Fla.
Norkeithus Otis, LB, Gastonia
Jarrod James, OL, Goldsboro
Travis Hughes, LB, Virginia Beach
Kameron Jackson, DB, Madison, Ala.
Romar Morris, ATH, Salisbury
Darien Rankin, DB, Salisbury
Devonte Brown, DT, Fayetteville, N.C.
Eric Ebron, TE, Greensboro
Tim Scott, DB, Fredericksburg, Va.
Brandon Ellerbe, DB, Wadesboro, N.C.
Shawn Underwood, DT, Fuquay-Varina
Keeon Virgile, LB, North Miami Beach
Kiaro Holts, OL, Indianapolis
N.C. STATE SIGNEES
*McKay Frandsen, DE
Brian Taylor, QB - (7:22 a.m.)
Benson Browne, TE - (7:55 a.m.)
Tyrrell Burriss, DB - (8:08 a.m.)
Michael Peek, LB - (8:11 a.m.)
Alex Barr, OL - (8:24 a.m.)
Wil Baumann, P - (8:39 a.m.)
Brandon Pittman, LB - (8:39 a.m.)
Mike Rose, DE - (8:48 a.m.)
Hakim Jones, DB - (9:04 a.m.)
Hakeem Flowers, WR - (9:33 a.m.)
Dave Mann, DE - (9:44 a.m.)
*Enrolled at NC State for the 2011 spring semester
Jacksonville linebacker Tony Steward, long considered a lock for Florida State, will sign with Clemson, according to The Florida Times-Union.
You can also read Observer columnist Scott Fowler's blog from ESPNU on the Steward shocker here, including an Urban Meyer anecdote about a time he thought he had a Florida player locked up only to see that player sign with Clemson.
Ardrey Kell running back Justus Pickett, the Observer's No. 19 recruit in North Carolina, will not sign today, Knights coach Adam Hastings said.
Pickett visited Arkansas last week and will visit Maryland this weekend.
"He's still trying to figure it out," Hastings said. "We have until April 2 but I think this time next week he'll have an idea of where he's at."
Hastings said Pickett will choose between Maryland, Arkansas, Ball State and West Virginia.
A first-team All Charlotte Observer pick, Pickett rushed for 2,429 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. That was the third-most yards ever in one season by a Mecklenburg County back and the ninth-most touchdowns. Pickett was his conference (Southwestern 4A) offensive player of the year and made several all-state teams.
Add linebacker Keeon Virgile to North Carolina's signing class.
The Tar Heels have received a signed letter of intent from Virgile, who's 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds and from North Miami Beach High in Florida, according to the school's official website.
Scout.com rates Virgile as a two-star recruit. An in-state linebacker, five-star prospect Stephone Anthony of Anson County High in Wadesboro, also is considering North Carolina (along with Clemson, Florida and Virginia Tech) on signing day.
According to the Virginian Pilot in Norfolk, it appears Lafonte Thourogood, a Virginia Beach-area quarterback who had committed to Virginia Tech, will sign instead with Vanderbilt. Signing-day switches like this always create drama for fanbases and headaches for coaches.
Follow signing day live as college football stars of tomorrow make their commitments official today by signing their national letters of intent. Ken Tysiac and Langston Wertz Jr. will update you on developments locally and for schools in the Carolinas and nationally.
Ken will also be chatting live from noon to 1 p.m. Watch for the link at www.charlotteobserver.com, where Ken will be updating all of the day's action and answering your questions about recruiting.
We also have Scott Fowler at ESPNU's Charlotte headquarters, following along with their 10 hours of national coverage. He'll be blogging at his Scott Says blog.
North Carolina added a running back to its 2011 class today, one day before national signing day.
Stephen Houston, an honorable mention junior college All-American at Independence Community College in Kansas, has committed to the Tar Heels.
Houston is 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds and originally signed with Mississippi out of Lakota West High in West Chester, Ohio.
“He’s a big, strong runner and he’s got speed for a big guy,” said Independence coach Steve Carson.
Houston fills a positional need for North Carolina after running back Savon Huggins of Jersey City, N.J., committed to Rutgers on Friday.
Larry Cox, who coached Houston at Lakota West, measured him with a 33-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot, 3-inch standing long jump in high school. He said that after Houston did not qualify academically for his scholarship at Mississippi, he spent his first year of junior college redshirting and concentrating on his school work.
Houston played just one year of junior college football and has three years of eligibility remaining.
“They expect him to be able to have an impact,” Cox said, “and they expect him to be able to play for three years.”
Ken Tysiac has covered the ACC in the Raleigh Bureau of The Charlotte Observer since 2003. He spent eight years in South Carolina covering Clemson, first with the Anderson Independent-Mail and later with The (Columbia) State. He graduated from Notre Dame in 1991.