If South Carolina football and basketball are going to find sustained success, they may need to follow the same recruiting strategy: look north.
Analysts have maintained that Steve Spurrier’s football program would be well served to raid North Carolina, a state with loads of talent that is wide open right now in recruiting. It may benefit Darrin Horn’s basketball program to continue to do the same thing.
Horn and Co. have signed four players with ties – either at a high school or prep school –to the Tar Heel State in the past three classes. That includes forward Lakeem Jackson (Charlotte) in the Class of 2009, forward Damontre Harris (Fayetteville, N.C.) and guards Eric Smith (Arden, N.C.) and Brian Richardson (Wilson, N.C.) in the Class of 2010 and forward Anthony Gill (Charlotte) in the Class of 2011.
If you include Nevada transfer Malik Cooke, USC currently has five have players on its roster from North Carolina. That’s a good thing, according to ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep.
“If you look at the guys that have signed in the last couple of years, they seem to have an interest of developing a pipeline into North Carolina,” he said. “They’ve put a couple of classes back-to-back that are SEC-caliber classes that can help them win games in their league. The foundation of the program exists. It’s just about putting another layer on top of it every year.
“What I think is important is that they open up North Carolina as an option for kids in this state. I think it’s worked out well since Darrin has been there. Some of those kids are going to have success in college, and you hope that’s attractive to more kids in the state.”
How much more fertile of a basketball recruiting ground is North Carolina than South Carolina? The numbers are staggering.
In the Classes of 2009, 2010 and 2011, South Carolina produced six top-150 players, according to Rivals.com. Of them, only one ranked higher than J.L. Mann guard and USC signee Damien Leonard, the 86th-best player in the current senior class. Clemson’s Milton Jennings was 25th overall in the Class of 2009.
On the other hand, North Carolina has 12 top-150 players in this year’s senior class, had 11 players make the Class of 2010 rankings and 11 make the Class of 2009 rankings. The Tar Heel State has nearly as many top-20 players over the three years (five) as South Carolina has in the top 150.
The four in-state ACC schools certainly aren’t taking all the top talent in North Carolina. Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest have a total of 22 players on their rosters with a high school or prep school tie the state. That leaves a ton of players each year that will likely look to leave the state’s borders.
“They need to reach into North Carolina and Georgia,” North Carolina-based recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons said of the Gamecocks. “Georgia has become a hot-bed of basketball talent. North Carolina is certainly producing. This is more of a basketball state with the ACC schools. A lot of the top athletes in this state are playing basketball.
“There are still a number of unsigned players in North Carolina that won’t be offered by the four ACC schools. South Carolina and Virginia Tech have been good about coming in and getting good prospects.”