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May 14, 2013

He's Gone

Andrew Wiggins stunned the college basketball recruiting world on Tuesday afternoon by choosing Kansas in a semi-private ceremony at his school in Huntington (WV).

Wiggins, who was down to Kansas, Kentucky, Florida State, and UNC, reportedly made his final choice between the Seminoles and the Jayhawks.

Certainly it's a disappointing day for North Carolina, but it shouldn't be a day ruiner except for those folks that somehow convinced themselves that Wiggins was destined to play in Chapel Hill---which in the end turned out to be a fallacious way of thinking.

The conclusion of the Wiggins' saga, at least from the Tar Heel perspective, reminds of a classic song from Hall and Oates.

Only instead of 'She's Gone,' this one is a tale of 'He's Gone.'


Everybody's high on consolation.......


As UNC fans accept the stark reality that Wiggins won't be coming to Chapel Hill, its natural that the conversation moves to the idea that the Tar Heels will still be fine next season without him.

Coming off a rebuilding year in which the Tar Heels have only lost two key players, certainly there's talk that UNC could compete for another Atlantic Coast Conference title next year and maybe even find themselves in position to get back to the Final Four for the first time since the 2009 national championship season.

Although Wiggins would have been a particularly unique fit to replace Reggie Bullock along the wing for the Tar Heels, Carolina is bringing in a solid three-man class that will allow the coaches to go back to a more typical rotation of two big men, easing the burden outside.

And at least for next season, UNC will have the services of two veterans in Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston on the perimeter.

Another way Tar Heel fans can console themselves is by quickly reminding themselves that Wiggins is the poster child for the current 'One and Done' trend of elite high school players.

Even if he had chosen UNC, it would have been a quick stay in Chapel Hill for Wiggins---or as head coach Roy Williams calls it, a bus stop.

Wiggins actually took it one step further, moving up his already fast track to the NBA by graduating from high school a year early so he could get through his collegiate season even sooner before heading off to the pros.

There's the added benefit from UNC's perspective as fans look to console themselves is that unlike other Wiggins finalists Florida State and Kentucky, who are on UNC's slate in 2013-2014, the Tar Heels don't have Kansas on the regular season schedule.

Of course the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee seems fixated on creating annual meetings between UNC and the Jayhawks in the Big Dance, so we can't rule out completely that the Tar Heels won't have to cross paths with Wiggins before he heads off to play for pay, but at least Carolina won't have to deal with him in Tallahassee or when the Wildcats come to the Smith Center in December.

So in the end, there's plenty of ways for UNC fans to console themselves despite all the potential that Wiggins could have brought to next season's Tar Heel team.


Everybody's trying to tell me what is right for me.......


For several weeks over the course of this unique, fascinating recruitment, some of the nation's elite program's respective fanbases---and who are we kidding, I'm talking about UNC and Kentucky fans here---have taken their passion away from the television sets and re-directed it to their computer screens.

Wildcat and Tar Heel fans have been hanging onto every positive nugget, every tidbit of hope, even if that tidbit of hope came on flimsy information and less-than-reliable sources.

On the flip side of that, anything indicating that Wiggins was for certain going to UNC was looked at skeptically by Kentucky fans, and in turn anything saying he was a lock to UK or Florida State was looked upon with mistrust by Tar Heel supporters.

And in the end, everybody saying their 'sources' had him pegged to either UNC, Kentucky, or Florida State was flat-out incorrect.

It's just a by-product of the real-time world we live in, where information is instantaneous and true investigative journalism is going the way of the passenger pigeon to make way for a philosophy so eloquently popularized on the big screen by Ricky Bobby:

"If you ain't first, you're last."

Few if any 'sources' were reliably pegging Wiggins to Kansas, which is one of the delicious ironies of this day.

The Wiggins recruitment saga proves that when it comes to disseminating information and trusting information from 'sources,' sometimes being first means being dead wrong.

It also proves that when it comes to getting recruiting information, it still pays to rely on people that do this stuff for a living.

It's sort of like getting a haircut. You can do it yourself, but sometimes its better to trust an experienced professional.


It's plain to see that they can't comfort me.......


Some Tar Heel fans are going to take this one pretty hard. It's just that simple.

Those particularly upset about the loss of Wiggins might suggest that Williams is somehow 'losing it' on the recruiting trail, and that he's not attracting the type of talent he once did.

The facts don't support such a suggestion, but as the lyric implies, sometimes nothing satisfies.

Over the last 11 recruiting classes going back to 2002-2003, when a kid from Ohio named LeBron James topped the Rivals 150, North Carolina hasn't yet gotten the nation's top-ranked prospect---and with Wiggins' decision to choose the Jayhawks, that streak continues.

But the facts show that UNC has gotten its fair share of big-time players since Williams returned to the Triangle.

Starting with J.R. Smith, who never played at UNC but was the No. 8 prospect in the Class of 2004, Williams has signed a total of nine players who finished ranked in the Top 10 of the Rivals 150.

The list includes Tyler Hansbrough (No. 10 in 2005), Brandan Wright (No. 3 in 2006), Wayne Ellington (No. 8 in 2006), Tywon Lawson (No. 9 in 2006), John Henson (No. 5 in 2009), Harrison Barnes (No. 2 in 2010), Reggie Bullock (No. 10 in 2010), and James Michael McAdoo (No. 8 in 2011).

But that won't assuage those who feel that Williams missed out on the type of instant-impact player in Wiggins that could have made the difference next season between being a contender in the ACC to being one of the preseason favorites to cut down the nets at the 2014 Final Four.

Only time will prove if their worries are founded or unfounded.


I think I've got it, got the strength to carry on.....


All UNC fans can do at this point is move forward, look ahead with a justified bit of optimism, and remember that Wiggins was a player that could have made a difference, but wasn't a make-or-break player like he could have potentially been at Florida State. UNC has the thoroughbreds to be a very good team next season.

Certainly in recent years, Tar Heel fans have had no choice but to be resilient.

There have been injuries. There have been stunning player departures and disappointing postseason letdowns.

But savvy UNC fans realize that every disappointment brings them one step closer to another moment of total victory, such as those earned in St. Louis in 2005 and Detroit in 2009.

Tar Heel fans can still take comfort that they have a Hall of Fame head coach, a first-rate assistant coaching staff, and a well-rounded, gifted team that's more experienced now.

Williams will once again have a veteran point guard, along with a majority of the team's returning scoring.

If the freshmen and returning veterans step up and fill the gaps left behind by Bullock and Dexter Strickland, it could be another special season in Chapel Hill.

Truthfully, that's the only way any progressive, rational-thinking Tar Heel fan can look at the big picture in the moments immediately following Wiggins' announcement.

Looking back helps nobody, and being critical about losing Wiggins after the fact is an insult to the coaches and players who will be fighting next season to get UNC back to the top of the ACC and back to the Final Four.


Now it's up to me, ooh what will be.......


The choice is simple Tar Heel fans.

Are you the type of fan that will hold this recruiting loss as evidence that Ol' Roy is slipping, or are you the type of fan that saw Wiggins all along as a luxury recruit---sort of like playing with house money----and the mere fact that Carolina was a finalist in the end shows how effective Williams can be in a pinch?

Those are contrasting ways of thinking, no doubt, and its part of what has made the message boards so interesting in recent weeks.

But now that the recruitment is over and Wiggins is Lawrence-bound, Tar Heel fans have to figure out a way to come to terms with the decision and the ramifications of it.

Some Tar Heel fans can take the Hall and Oates theme even further---driven to a drink or perhaps feeling like they'd pay the Devil to replace Wiggins---but the reality is that no matter how much frustration lies about missing out on him, that frustration needs to be squashed.


I'd better learn how to face it.......


The wise UNC fan will be the one that simply lets this one go---grateful that it's over, and grateful that the Tar Heels were even in the conversation.

After all, being in the top four of such a high-profile recruitment---just being in the discussion---was a positive on multiple levels. Certainly there aren't any negatives to it unless you are a natural pessimist.

The reality is that Carolina wasn't even on Wiggins' radar until very recently, and despite a late push, the Tar Heels were never sitting at the top of Wiggins' recruitment, despite what might have been suggested.

That's worth repeating.

The reality is that Carolina wasn't even on Wiggins' radar until very recently, and despite a late push, the Tar Heels were never sitting at the top of Wiggins' recruitment, despite what might have been suggested.

The Greek philosopher Plato wrote that 'We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."


What went wrong?


This one will be debated as long as folks care about UNC basketball recruiting.

Could the Tar Heels have done something differently to land Wiggins?

Could different circumstances, such as another player leaving or something else outside of Wiggins' direct control, have impacted his decision?

Why Kansas, when they didn't seem to be one of the favorites?

Why would Wiggins have avoided the opportunity to potentially win a title at North Carolina, knowing he'd have Coach Williams' blessing to leave after one year?

These are all legitimate questions, and they're worth asking for those who inquire about such things. But the reality is that we may never know the actual answers to all these questions, unless Wiggins suddenly opens up one day about his high-profile recruitment.

Being such a private kid, Wiggins doesn't seem the type that would explain publicly why UNC, Kentucky, and Florida State didn't measure up to Kansas, and therefore these answers may never come from him.

As Hall and Oates suggested, UNC fans simply must learn how to face it.

He's gone.






 

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