By R.L. Bynum
After North Carolina’s women’s program brought in consecutive outstanding recruiting classes, the Tar Heels lost an integral part of that success in the offseason.
Michigan native Carrie Moore, who was an assistant coach and UNC’s recruiting coordinator, left to take a similar position at Michigan. She spent the previous seven seasons on Coach Courtney Banghart’s staff, including five seasons at Princeton.
“Her main function on our staff was recruiting and us getting the right people here and I have such gratitude forever for the kind of talent she was able to work to help me get in here,” Banghart said Thursday at her summer press conference.
The results were eye-popping: the five sophomores on next season’s team made up the No. 11 class in the country and the incoming four-player freshman class was ranked No. 2. Those players have contributed to plenty of excitement heading into the season.
There’s never a good time to lose a key recruiter on your coaching staff but the transition comes at a time when Banghart expects to bring in two players at the most from the Class of ’22 and possibly none. The program brought in two transfers in addition to those nine underclassmen.
“We are not going to see another four-person class,” said Banghart, pointing out that another high-ranking class is unlikely, even with a top recruit or two, because it will be so small. “I love the talent we have. I think it’s excellent. We don’t need a lot, so we’re not going to go after a lot in the next couple years.”
If her freshman class was for a men’s program, you’d expect possibly one or two to leave after one season for the NBA. Without that dynamic in the women’s game, Banghart has a talented roster that is likely to be around for a few seasons.
She realizes, though, that amid the pandemic and the fluidity of the transfer portal, rosters can change from year to year. She pointed out that three of the Final Four teams only played seven players in those games. Players who aren’t in the rotation or possibly are homesick may look elsewhere.
“How many bodies do you need to be excellent? I love the group we have and we’re not going to just stack talent here,” Banghart said. “We’re going to find the right fit at the right time, collectively. And so our classes will all be different. I just stay in my lane and know that my job is to build a team, year after year, and the team that I have built for this year I really love. I will never stop building the right team for the following year.”
Banghart brought in Itoro Coleman to replace Moore. Coleman was a head coach at her alma mater, Clemson, and played a significant role in recruiting four top-25 classes while on the staff at Penn State.
“What this team needs now is a little bit different,” Banghart said, adding that Coleman brings a wealth of experience, including a brief WNBA career, that will help the current players get better. “She’s got a better playing career than anyone else on my staff, including Carrie.”
Coleman, an assistant at Marquette last season, made All-ACC three times, led the Tigers to ACC titles in 1996 and 1999 and was the ACC tournament MVP in 1999. She was head coach at Clemson for three seasons and her team beat No. 21 UNC 52–47 in 2012 for the Tigers’ first win over a ranked team in eight years.
“Itoro is coming in as a recruiting coordinator for us because she’s done it at the Power Five level, which gives you a different level of experience there,” Banghart said. “Not to take anything away from the work that Carrie and I did together, but we really circle recruit. We don’t have a kid that’s like ‘that’s my kid,’ ‘that’s your kid.’ We pick a very small group of kids that we want to recruit and we want you to feel in love with all four of us.”
Helping Coleman in her job as recruiting coordinator will be Liz Roberts. The former UNC player, who was a senior in Banghart’s first season, was named last week as director of recruiting management and student-athlete engagement.
“Carrie didn’t have someone in that role, so she had to spend a lot of her time kind of coordinating the circle approach,” Banghart said. “Now, Liz is doing that, so Itoro can be like everybody else, just kind of one of our main recruiters.”
Carolina opens the season Nov. 9 at home against North Carolina A&T.
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications