College Basketball: UNC stars make decisions
By Aaron Beard
Tyler Hansbrough wants to make one more run at the national championship. The North Carolina star will have to wait a little longer to find out whether two of his high-scoring teammates will be back to help him.
The Associated Press national player of the year said Friday that he will return for his senior year. However, sophomores Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington will declare for the NBA draft, though they won’t hire agents ó leaving open the possibility of their return.
Hansbrough, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds. He led the Tar Heels (36-3) to the winningest season in school history and the Final Four while sweeping the major national player of the year awards. He already has qualified to become the eighth player in school history to have his jersey retired and can add several more records to his resume in his final season.
He will be the first returning AP national player of the year since LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal in 1991.
“I love my collegiate experience and want to finish my four years here, then move on to my next dream of playing in the NBA,” Hansbrough said in a statement. “I am very relieved that this decision is behind us and I can concentrate on my academic work and improving my game for next season.”
His return wasn’t a big surprise considering he has long talked about his drive to win a national championship before he leaves Chapel Hill. He has focused on his game with that same determination, earning the nickname “Psycho T” with his relentless inside play and work ethic. He has thrived by scoring in the paint despite contact and getting to the foul line throughout his career, but also steadily increased his shooting range last season.
He enters next year ranked second on the program’s career list with 2,168 points, putting him 122 behind Phil Ford for the record. He also is within reach of the Atlantic Coast Conference career mark set by Duke’s J.J. Redick (2,769 points) in 2006.
With Hansbrough back, the Tar Heels figure to remain among the favorites to win the ACC and reach another Final Four. Now he’ll have to wait to find out whether the team’s second- and third-leading scorers from last season will join him.
Ellington, a 6-4 wing guard, averaged nearly 17 points per game as the Tar Heels’ top perimeter scorer. Lawson averaged about 13 while directing coach Roy Williams’ fast-paced offense. If the duo comes back, the Tar Heels would return their top eight players while adding one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.
Both Ellington and Lawson said in statements that they would remain in good academic standing while working out for NBA teams to learn more about their draft potential. Players who declare but do not hire an agent have until June 16 to withdraw their names.
“I’m not dying to leave here, but playing in the NBA is another dream I have,” Ellington said.
Coach Roy Williams said he contacted more teams than ever before ó he put the number at 18 by the end of last week ó to find out about where the trio would be picked.
“I want what is best for each individual and each individual player is different and has different factors to consider,” Williams said. “We will continue to help Ty and Wayne with the draft process and give them all the support they need in making any future decisions related to staying in the draft or returning to Carolina.”