Tar Heels top new ESPN recruiting rankings

After losing four-fifths of last season’s starting lineup to the NBA, North Carolina will rebuild in 2012-13 with what ESPN.com’s Dave Telep dubbed a “foundation class” – a solid stage for what is (and who are) to follow.

And judging by ESPN.com’s first Class of 2013 recruiting rankings, released WednesdayInsider, what’s coming next is going to be pretty darn good.

The Tar Heels come in atop the rankings, after already receiving verbal commitments from power forward Isaiah Hicks, ranked the No. 10 overall prospect in the nation; and Washington D.C.’s Nate Britt, ranked the third-best point guard in the country.

Writes Recruiting Nation:

Roy Williams has been down this road before. Since arriving at North Carolina, the Hall of Fame coach has produced many highly ranked recruiting classes. With all the talent the Tar Heels lost last season -- Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller -- you'd think the program would be taking on water, and the ship would be sinking. Not so fast, my friend. ESPN 100 recruits power forward Isaiah Hicks (Oxford, N.C./Webb) and point guard Nate Britt (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga) are already on board. Hicks has an impressive offensive arsenal and is an adept shot-blocker, while Britt is a trustworthy lead guard who has a good touch, especially from midrange.

That duo -- along with the others Williams will no doubt eventually lure to Chapel Hill -- will join this year’s incoming top-10 freshman group of point guard Marcus Paige, small forward J.P. Tokoto, center Joel James and power forward Brice Johnson.

And they'll look to continue a positive recruiting stategy (and pattern) for UNC.

After the Tar Heels won the 2005 national title and lost most of their star lineup to the NBA, Williams immediately brought in a new “foundation” group that included Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard and Bobby Frasor. In 2006, he added some more five-star power in point guard Ty Lawson and shooting guard Wayne Ellington, and voila! The Tar Heels eventually made two straight trips to the Final Four, winning the NCAA championship again in 2009.

After that title -- and the personnel losses yet again to the NBA -- Williams brought in another “foundation” group that included Dexter Strickand, John Henson and Leslie McDonald. In 2010, he added stars Barnes and Marshall. That group never made it to the Final Four, thanks in part to multiple injuries last March, but they were one of the top teams in the nation last season.

In summing up Williams' recruiting strategy last November, Telep said, "We have seen this before."

Now, with the latest rankings, it looks like we're seeing it again.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.