In my 23 years I’ve been fortunate to experience most aspects of Carolina fanhood – attending a Final Four is perhaps the last major one remaining – but tonight I experienced for the first time one that is probably pretty far down the list for most: I saw a future Tar Heel play in high school. Nate Britt, #17 overall on ESPN’s 2013 rankings and the #2 point guard prospect, has committed to UNC and plays for Gonzaga, an elite Catholic high school in DC. Admittedly, this has not been high on my list, even as dedicated a fan as I am; if it was, I would have gathered up some friends and road-tripped to Kinston to see Reggie Bullock play.
But I’ve always thought it would be novel to see one of the best basketball players in the country play in a setting in which he was demonstrably superior to the other players on the court, before he eventually blossomed into a star player against much better competition in the ACC. Previously I have seen four other high players in person who eventually played at high major college programs, three of whom wound up at Wake Forest (Wake often gets the best players in NC that UNC passes on; those three were Jamie Skeen, Ish Smith, and C.J. Harris, and the fourth was Clemson’s DeMontez Stitt).
When I discovered earlier this year that one of the top prospects in the 2013 class played at a local DC high school, and that he had UNC on his short list of schools, I made a point to catch a game of his, since it was a convenient opportunity to accomplish the goal. It was also an exciting chance to exercise my passionate devotion to the Heels remotely – I can’t attend many games in Chapel Hill, and I live in a place where college basketball is discussed far less than at home, but this is something only Carolina fans who live in Washington can do. Britt made his commitment to UNC in December, but an injury kept him off the court for a stretch and lessened the number of chances I had to see him, pushing the experience back to this weekend’s conference tournament.