Strickland turns Carolina blue
St. Patrick guard gives verbal commitment to UNC
Posted: Monday January 14, 2008 12:31PM; Updated: Monday January 14, 2008 2:49PM
NEW YORK -- So there they were, Irv Gotti, the prominent hip hop producer, and Roy Williams, the coach of the nation's top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, getting along famously in the front row at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon.
Seated next to each other across from the St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) bench, Williams and Gotti chatted with adoring fans and smiled for photos, all the while watching as UNC recruit Dexter Strickland helped St. Patrick beat St. Raymond's (Bronx, N.Y.). "I never thought that I would see them sitting together," says Strickland, who announced his plans to attend North Carolina after the game. "[Irv] came to one of my home games a few weeks ago. I'm a fan of both."
Already loaded with recruits for next year's class with verbal commitments from Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) twins David and Travis Wear, who are both 6-foot-9 forwards, the well-heeled Williams added a lithe, ever-maturing guard in Strickland. "I think he's a Carolina guard in the way he's unselfish and about making players around him better," said St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle, whose starting forward Quintrell Thomas committed to Kansas in the fall. "We're proud to have two kids from the program going to the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the country."
Strickland, a 6-3, 180-pound guard who is No. 13 is the SI/Takkle.com rankings, offered Williams his commitment last week, but waited to announce his plans publicly at the Garden. With his mother, Sheronne, dressed in Carolina blue velour and family members in attendance for a small press conference, Strickland put on a UNC hat and sweatshirt to reveal his choice. "I think going to St. Patrick was a humbling experience for him to play against the best and have a wake-up call for who the best players are," said Sheronne. "We're excited to go and see him play in Chapel Hill."
It was the Strickland's last visit to UNC, though, that made him a first in Tar Heel lore. Of all the top-flight recruits to trek to Dean Dome, Strickland made a lasting impression when about 10 family members arrived in an RV. "Coach Williams said he had never seen that before," says Sheronne, who helped plan the trip with her uncle Donnie. "It was a bonding chance for us in a drivable distance."
In addition to Strickland and the Wears, Carolina has also received commitments from 6-10 junior forward John Henson (Round Rock, Texas) and 6-5 sophomore wing Reggie Bullock of Kinston, N.C. "I'm looking forward to getting down there," said Strickland. "I believe we'll fly there next time."