While fans wait to learn whether underclassmen Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green are staying in the NBA draft, coach Roy Williams is cementing North Carolina's future with a top-rated recruiting class.
On Monday night, Memphis shooting guard Leslie McDonald became the fifth player in the Class of 2009 to commit to North Carolina. ESPN.com national recruiting director Bob Gibbons rates McDonald as the eighth-best player in the class.
Along with forward John Henson and shooting guard Dexter Strickland, McDonald gives North Carolina three players who at least one recruiting analyst ranks in the top 10. Scout.com analyst Dave Telep said North Carolina has the nation's top class.
“It's a pretty impressive haul when you look at it top to bottom,” Telep said. “There's size, talent in the backcourt and a future NBA talent in John Henson.”
Telep said North Carolina's Class of 2006 group was better because it had the top players in the nation at three positions in Lawson, Ellington and Brandan Wright. Highly regarded post players Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson also were in that class.
Gibbons said the Class of 2009 is better because it's deeper with frontcourt twins David and Travis Wear joining Henson, McDonald and Strickland. There's also a chance the Tar Heels will add rapidly improving power forward Ryan Kelly of Ravenscroft High in Raleigh.
“If they get (Kelly), there's no doubt, this will rank with one of the best all-time recruiting classes in Tar Heel annals,” Gibbons said. “I'm not saying it's the best, but it's one of the best from top to bottom.”
The latest addition, McDonald, is 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds and averaged 21 points last season as a junior at Briarcrest Christian.
Briarcrest coach John Harrington said McDonald can play point guard and shooting guard. He is a strong defender who does thankless jobs such as setting screens.
“He's just an all-around player,” Harrington said.
McDonald fills a need at wing along with Strickland. North Carolina added late wing signee Justin Watts in the 2008 class to complement McDonald's All-America post players Tyler Zeller and Ed Davis and point guard Larry Drew.
The Tar Heels needed more wing players in 2009.
“Pairing (McDonald) with Strickland, those are two of the most relentless, consistently intense competitors,” Gibbons said. “In their own world, they have some Tyler Hansbrough in that they refuse to lose and they give maximum effort.”
Lawson works out
Lawson worked out for the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, a team spokesman confirmed, two days after canceling a workout with the team.
The Nuggets have the 20th pick in the NBA draft. Along with teammates Green and Ellington, Lawson has entered the draft but as an underclassman can maintain his college eligibility if he withdraws by June 16 and does not hire an agent.
Ken Tysiac: 919-834-8471
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