PITTSBORO — The recruitment of Seaforth junior Jarin Stevenson is coming to a head.
The Hawks’ 6-foot-10 forward — who is ranked No. 11 nationally in the Class of 2024 by 247Sports — has had a busy offseason competing for Team United in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), but he’s also visited several schools over the past few months as he nears his college decision.
Speaking with the News + Record earlier this week, Stevenson said he plans to make a decision ideally by the end of June. He’s also considering reclassifying and joining a team early for the 2023-24 season. According to Stevenson, making the jump to college early would help set him up well for an eventual career as a pro player.
"The benefits of reclassifying are, first, getting used to a college system quicker,” Stevenson said. “Also, the NBA likes younger prospects. Getting into college quicker would make me younger for the NBA Draft, which would be helpful. But staying another year would get me more looks, because as a senior, I'd be playing a little bit lesser competition and I could show off more of my skills. I'd probably be more free in a high school setting. Those would be the advantages of coming back."
Stevenson — who has averaged 21.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game across his first two seasons with the Hawks — said he’s still 50-50 on whether or not he wants to leave Seaforth early and join the college ranks. He added he’ll make that decision when he announces his commitment.
So, what teams are in the running for Stevenson? Perhaps the most obvious candidate is UNC, which is just down the road from Seaforth in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels already have the top-ranked recruiting class in 2024, with Ian Jackson, James Brown and Drake Powell — who plays for Northwood — already committing to head coach Hubert Davis and his staff. Word on the street is Stevenson is North Carolina’s final priority in the Class of 2024, and bringing him in would be another huge get for the Tar Heels.
Stevenson visited Chapel Hill last week, his latest of several trips to the school where his mom, Nicole (Walker) Stevenson, played on three ACC title-winning teams from 1995-98. He told the N+R that UNC’s stature as one of the top programs in college basketball is one of the main reasons why he’s considering committing to the school.
"I love the prestige at Carolina,” Stevenson said. They're very well known, a blue blood. They have a lot of respect. The fans are passionate, too. And I do love that they're close to home. It's only 15 minutes away from my house."
If Stevenson commits to UNC and decides to join the Tar Heels early, he would likely be the team’s third power forward behind 6-foot-10 sophomore Jalen Washington and 6-foot-9 junior Jae’Lyn Withers. Washington played just 5.6 minutes per game in 20 games for UNC in 2022-23, averaging 2.2 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. Withers, meanwhile, joins the Tar Heels after averaging 8.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game over the past three seasons with Louisville.
One of the other programs Stevenson is considering, along with Virgina, Georgetown and Missouri, is Alabama — which has become a program on the rise over the past several years under head coach Nate Oats. Last season, the Crimson Tide went 31-6 overall and lost in the Elite Eight to San Diego State.
Alabama only has one power forward on their current roster in senior Nick Pringle, who averaged 3.5 points and 3.1 rebounds in 8.0 minutes per game this past season. Stevenson said he has enjoyed his time chatting with the Crimson Tide coaches and sees them as a team that will help him prepare for the pro level.
“Coach Oats has been really successful these last few years,” Stevenson said. “I like his system. It's an NBA offense. Spread the floor. Be able to shoot threes. They have a good defense, and they play hard."
If Stevenson does decide to stay for his senior season at Seaforth, he will be among the top returning seniors in the entire country. This past season, Stevenson was named the North Carolina Gatorade boys basketball player of the year. Taking one more year to prepare for college would guarantee him consistent playing time, as well as give other schools the opportunity to send him scholarship offers.
Whatever choice he makes, Stevenson figures to be a name to watch at the next level and beyond. At 6-foot-10 with a solid handle and good athleticism, Stevenson represents the type of player NBA scouts are becoming increasingly infatuated with. If he continues to work on his skills and adds some weight to his frame, he’ll only increase his draft stock if and when the time comes to make the jump.