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A minimum salary of $100,000 was intriguing.
But a chance to play for North Carolina basketball and Hubert Davis was even better.
Five-star 2023 combo guard Simeon Wilcher formally opted for the latter on Friday, as he verbally committed to the Tar Heels over 10-plus other colleges as well as Overtime Elite, the Atlanta-based start-up team that’s offering top high school players an alternative (and well paid) path to the NBA.
Wilcher, a junior at Roselle Catholic High School in New Jersey, started October with an official visit to Nebraska – where his older brother, C.J., is a sophomore transfer – and also heard from Auburn, Iowa, Kansas and UConn during a recruitment that picked up over the summer and continued into the fall.
None of those options intrigued the 6-foot-4 Wilcher as much as UNC, though, and a weekend visit in early October sold him further on first-year head coach Hubert Davis’ vision for the Tar Heel program.
“Their plan is to guide me and help develop me to play at the next level and to try and hang a banner,” Wilcher told ESPN, echoing a shoot-high strategy Davis laid out at last week’s 2021 ACC Tipoff event.
— Simeon Wilcher (@SimeonWilcher) October 16, 2021
Wilcher, who ranks as the No. 14 recruit in the class of 2023 per 247Sports composite ratings, timed his verbal commitment last Friday with UNC’s annual Late Night preseason event in the Smith Center.
The 2021 iteration marked Davis’ first since replacing longtime UNC coach Roy Williams, who retired in April, and the Tar Heels were in the second quarter of their Blue-White scrimmage, per InsideCarolina, when Wilcher announced his decision on Twitter and gave Davis and staff their first 2023 commit.
In landing Wilcher, UNC not only secured an anchor for its 2023 class in rapid fashion – Wilcher received an offer on Sept. 3 and committed on Oct. 15, just six weeks later – but staved off the start-up OTE team, which has landed a number of splashy 2022 and 2023 recruits since it ramped up this spring.
Talented Florida twin brothers Matt and Ryan Bewley, the No. 3 and No. 12 recruits in ESPN’s rankings, were the first two high schoolers to sign with OTE in May. Three-star forward Jai Smith, who last played at Raleigh’s Word of God Christian Academy, is also on OTE’s inaugural 24-man roster for 2021-22.
The team will play a national schedule, and every high schooler on the roster will earn “a guaranteed minimum salary of at least $100,000 per year, plus bonuses and shares of equity in Overtime,” OTE said in a release last month. “In addition, players will participate in revenue from use of their name, image and likeness, including through sales of custom jerseys, trading cards, videogames and NFTs.”
But forfeiting his last two years of high school eligibility, plus his college eligibility, for a professional life and salary felt like “rushing yourself into adulthood,” Wilcher, 17, told On3’s Joe Tipton. “You’re not going to be able to walk across that stage as a senior in high school. That’s something that not only you look forward to, but your family looks forward to. You’re not able to do the things that regular high school kids do.”
Using that logic, Wilcher initially declined a six-figure offer from OTE in August and continued a college recruiting process that took off after a strong summer of AAU basketball with the N.Y. Rens on the Nike EYBL circuit and wrapped up last Friday with his verbal commitment to UNC over Nebraska and others.
As a composite 0.9946 recruit, Wilcher sits in a four-way tie with Theo Pinson, P.J. Hairston and Day’Ron Sharpe as UNC’s No. 16 all-time commit in the internet recruiting era, per 247Sports. He is also Davis’ first five-star commit since the first-year coach succeeded Williams in April. (Four-star 2022 commit Jalen Washington ranked as a five-star earlier this year but has since dropped to a four-star rating).
For Wilcher, Friday’s commitment and the feelings that followed also served as confirmation that he’d made the right choice in eschewing a sizeable OTE offer and sticking to college basketball at UNC.
“My end goal was to always go to college, because the money is going to come,” he told On3. “I don’t play basketball just for the money … I play because I love it.”
Follow Chapel Fowler on Twitter at @chapelfowler.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: North Carolina basketball lands five-star 2023 recruit Simeon Wilcher