Following the team's third loss in as many games, the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels (12-7) are reportedly prepared to access the program's emergency stockpile of McDonald's High School All-Americans in hopes of turning around a season that has them sliding out of the Top 25.
"Our strategic reserve of elite recruits is one of the reasons this is the greatest job in America," said head coach Roy Williams, who has seen his team lose three games in a row for the first time in his tenure at North Carolina. "No other program has this. We can access the stockpile, bolster our team, right the ship, and then worry about replenishing it again for the future."
Of the 35 High School All-Americans at Williams' disposal, only three will be tapped now: Roger Gilyard, a 6-foot-5 point guard who was Mr. Basketball in Mississippi; Roderick Purifoy, a 6-8 scoring swingman who picked UNC over Duke, Kansas and UConn; and Mason Digsby, an athletic 7-foot-2 center many project to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft when he declares.
The trio was not deemed necessary to UNC's success during preseason practices and therefore were placed in the emergency reserve. But with a bid to the NIT Tournament on the horizon, Williams and North Carolina are desperate.
"People forget how difficult it is to win in college basketball," says Williams. "Every night is a challenge. Having 50 McDonald's High School All-Americans at your disposal is not a magic ticket. There's more to it than just pushing them out onto the court to play. I know that now."
With the strategic reserve of All-Americans accessed and the season likely saved, the difficult job for Williams now is figuring out how to replenish the stockpile.
"We have interest from the top 250 high school players in the country," says Williams. "How do I cut that list down to just to best 50? Do I just take all the top rated ones? Or do I gamble on a few kids who are ranked in the sixties or seventies? That's where this job gets really tough. It keeps you up nights."