While North Carolina enters the summer as one of the teams expected to contend for a national title in 2015-16, perimeter shooting remained a question that the Tar Heels needed to address. While North Carolina shot 35.3 percent from beyond the arc, a lot of that was thanks to rising senior guard Marcus Paige who hit 92 three-pointers. No other Tar Heel made more than 26 (Nate Britt and Justin Jackson), so finding another perimeter shooting option would not have been a bad deal for Roy Williams and his staff.
Saturday afternoon North Carolina did just that, as four-star shooting guard Kenny Williams announced his decision on Twitter. Williams, originally a VCU signee who picked the Rams over North Carolina, was also considering Virginia. And with an official visit scheduled for UVA this weekend, the feeling was that the Cavaliers were the frontrunner. Obviously that wasn’t the case.
“The addition of Kenny Williams gives North Carolina another floor spacer that they desperately needed,” NBC Sports recruiting insider Scott Phillips said of the commitment. “Even if he only plays a few minutes a game next season, Williams is lethal enough hitting tough 3-pointers off of curls and screens that he’ll draw defenses closer to him and free up more space for Carolina’s other players.
“Williams is the kind of perimeter shooter who works hard to get open and knows how to properly use screens to free himself up to get a quick look.”
The 6-foot-4 Williams joins a perimeter rotation led by Paige, with Jackson expected to take a big step forward as a sophomore and players such as Britt, Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson on board as well. Williams, who attends L.C. Bird HS in Chesterfield, Virginia, joins Luke Maye in North Carolina’s 2015 recruiting class.
It goes without saying that the coaching carousel impacts recruiting, and that’s been the case for former VCU signee Kenny Williams. One of the best shooters in the Class of 2015, Williams’ request to be released from his National Letter of Intent was granted by new VCU head coach Will Wade earlier this month.
Since then he’s been targeted by a number of programs, and on Wednesday the Chesterfield, Virginia native trimmed his list down to two schools.
North Carolina, which was a finalist for Williams when he originally committed to VCU, and Virginia remain in the running for the shooting guard as first reported by ESPN.com. Williams will officially visit Virginia, which lost Justin Anderson to the NBA Draft earlier this month, in the near future.
Both teams can use a shooter of Williams’ caliber even with the amount of perimeter talent they return in 2015-16. For North Carolina, Marcus Paige was their best perimeter shooter in 2014-15 and another player who can make those shots would relieve some of the pressure on him next season. As for Virginia, the Cavaliers lost their best perimeter shooter in Anderson and the addition of Williams would be a nice supplement alongside Malcolm Brogdon.
The two schools no longer in contention for Williams’ commitment are Florida and Michigan, and their departures make sense. Florida is now looking for a new head coach with Billy Donovan taking the Oklahoma City Thunder job. As for Michigan, while Austin Hatch’s move to a medical scholarship freed up an athletic scholarship (Hatch doesn’t count towards the 13-scholarship limit) they’re still in the running for five-star small forward Jaylen Brown.
Michigan showed interest in Williams but had yet to offer, likely due to the undetermined status of Brown.
While the most important task for a new head coach is to make sure that the current players are taken care of, recruits who have committed to the prior staff are important as well. In some instances that can mean informing the player that they no longer fit in the plans, and in others the coach looks to convince those talented players to stay the course and remain committed.
That’s the task new VCU head coach Will Wade is faced with, as he’ll have to go through the process of re-recruiting players who signed with the prior staff. Thursday it was reported by Tim Pearrell of the Richmond Times-Dispatch that VCU signees Jordan Murphy and Kenny Williams have requested to be released from their National Letter of Intent (NLI), with the latter meeting with Wade on Thursday.
This news comes two days after it was reported by the Washington Post that four-star small forward Tevin Mack requested to be released from his NLI but no decision had been made by VCU at the time. In the case of Williams, a Top 100 recruit who held offers from programs such as North Carolina and Indiana, it was reported by Pearrell that the shooting guard is still willing to consider VCU despite receiving the release.
As for Murphy, the Texan is considering Oregon, UCLA, Gonzaga and Miami according to Ben Baby of the San Antonio Express-News. Murphy still has three official visits remaining (he only visited VCU and UNLV before committing), which is a positive for him when it comes to making a final decision regarding his college destination.
If there’s a positive for VCU from a recruiting standpoint it’s that the first of two evaluation periods this month begins Friday afternoon, with another coming during the final weekend of April. There will be opportunities to watch other players in the Class of 2015 that may be looking for offers and will also fit what Wade wants to do with the program as he looks to build upon what Shaka Smart was able to accomplish.
Shaka Smart has made his first foray into the 2015 recruiting class as he landed Kenny Williams, a talented, 6-foot-2 guard from southern Virginia.
“Extremely blessed and excited to announce that I have committed to play my college basketball at VCU,” Williams tweeted. He’s currently listed as a three-star recruit and the No. 124 player in the class of 2015, but that ranking is expected to go up once it gets updated.
Williams played very well this July, collecting offers from the likes of North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Minnesota and Indiana, but he decided to stay local. The Rams had made him a priority early on in his high school career.
“It just felt like the right thing to do,” Williams told Rivals.com. “The situation couldn’t get any better than VCU.”
Williams is a perfect fit for Smart’s ‘Havoc’ system at VCU. He’s not an elite defender or a next-level athlete, but he’s a good enough defender that he won’t be a liability defensively in a system that prioritizes full court pressure and forcing turnovers. His biggest strength is his ability to shoot the ball from deep, which is something that the Rams lacked last season, but he’s more of a combo-guard than a pure off-guard.
Put that all together and you see why Williams was such an important recruit for the Rams. He’s talented enough to be coveted by the big boys, local enough to have been spotted early by VCU, he’s a very good fit for their system and he fills a need that the team has.