The recruitment of Zion Cruz has been an exciting, and at times mysterious, one. He’s undoubtedly one of the best guards in the Class of ’22. He’s a gritty, creative guard, who thrives in the clutch. He’s the next iteration of the long and storied lineage of New York City floor generals. The Jersey City gyms where Cruz has dominated are just a few miles from the Manhattan blacktops. But Cruz has been extremely tight-lipped about his decision, and it has always seemed as though Cruz wanted to leave the northeast.
Syracuse offered him early, and Jim Boeheim’s staff was a contender for Cruz for quite some time. But over the course of the last few months they’ve faded out of the equation. Auburn has seemed to take the lead in the sweepstakes. After his official visit, Cruz said the Tigers moved to the “top of his list.”
Alabama, Creighton, Florida State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, LSU, Maryland, and Ohio State all have offers out to Cruz. He has the size to get his shot off against any one at 6’5″, but crafty enough to distribute and create. He’s rated by 247 Sports as the 18th best player in the country for ’22, and the #3 point guard.
“He’s a three-level scorer. Real creative with his finishes at the rim. Still utilizes the mid range. Really good at 1-2 dribble pullups at the elbows. He’s creative with his shots and a big-time three-point shooter.” – AAU Coach Munch Williams
But in the last few days, a new power program has jumped into the fray for Cruz: North Carolina. New head coach Hubert Davis had a phone conversation with Cruz and extended an offer. The Tar Heels immediately become one of the favorites to land him. Here’s what Cruz told Inside Carolina a few weeks ago.
“I would definitely consider them (UNC) if it were to pick up because they’re a dream school. They’ve been a dream school since I was a kid. You’ve seen what they did with Cole Anthony and Coby White so that could be a good situation.” – Zion Cruz
Cruz was intent on making an official visit to UNC even before the offer was extended. The NBA products in Chapel Hill have caught his attention. Anthony became one of the most talked about players in college hoops and eventually was drafted 15th by Orlando last year. White was drafted the year before at #7 by the Bulls. So the Heels success in producing lottery picks at guard clearly has big influence on Cruz.
UNC has been one of the most dominant blue-bloods for generations. Now that Roy Williams has retired, the program gets thrown into some unknown waters. Will the Heels continue to churn out Final Four runs? Will lottery talent continue to flock there? Is Davis a good head coach or a lifetime assistant? The answers to those questions will only show themselves in the next few seasons. But the allure of the banners, history, rivalries, and NBA success will always be strong. Like Kenny Smith (UNC), Kenny Anderson (Georgia Tech) and Stephon Marbury (Georgia Tech), the next great New York point guard could very well be headed south as well.