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Hansbrough to return; Lawson, Ellington declare for NBA draft

Staff and wire report

North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough will return for his senior year, the school said Friday.

Sophomore guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington will declare for the NBA draft but not hire agents, leaving open the possibility of their return.

“I am pleased and most supportive of the decisions made by all three young people,” head coach Roy Williams said in a statement released by the school. “I want what is best for each individual, and each individual player is different and has different factors to consider. It was a very exhausting time of research spent talking to the NBA people. I contacted more than half the teams in the NBA, speaking to various player personnel representatives including a number of general managers. In fact, I contacted more teams this year than I’ve ever done before to provide them with the best information possible on their draft status. We gave that information over to Tyler, Ty, Wayne and their families and allowed them to make the decision.

“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.”

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.

Hansbrough’s return wasn’t a big surprise considering he has long talked about his determination to win a national championship before he leaves school.

“I love playing at North Carolina and still have big dreams to realize here, including graduating,” Hansbrough said in a released statement. “Of course I look forward to playing in the NBA some day, but not next year. 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. 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.”

Hansbrough, who has 2,168 points and 943 rebounds in his career, could become the first player to be recognized as a first-team All-American four times. He is 225 rebounds away from passing Sam Perkins for first place in North Carolina history and 123 points away from claiming Phil Ford’s status as the school’s all-time leading scorer. Hansbrough needs 602 points to break the ACC career scoring record set by former Duke star J.J. Redick in 2006.

Hansbrough will have to wait to find out whether the team’s second- and third-leading scorers last season will join him in Chapel Hill for another title run.

Ellington averaged nearly 17 points per game and Lawson averaged about 13 while directing Williams’ fast-paced offense. If the duo comes back, the Tar Heels would likely return their top eight players while adding one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.

“I will work out for NBA teams to get a more precise evaluation of my draft status,” Lawson said. “After I do that and get more information from the teams, I will make a decision to either stay in the draft or come back to North Carolina for my junior year. I am in good standing academically and plan on doing a great job in my final exams.”

An ankle injury slowed Lawson’s development this season, and Ellington has more room to improve like he did following his freshman campaign.

“I will comply with all the necessary rules to make certain that my NCAA eligibility is not negatively affected,” Ellington said. “I really enjoy North Carolina and my teammates. I’m not dying to leave here, but playing in the NBA is another dream I have. During the next couple of months I hope to work out for NBA teams and get a more specific evaluation of where I would be positioned in this year’s draft. After I receive the information from the NBA teams, I will decide to either stay in the draft or come back for my junior year.”

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Sunday. The league’s pre-draft camp is scheduled for May 27-June 2 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Players are not permitted to work out with individual NBA teams until June 3 and may withdraw their names from the draft by 5 p.m. on June 16.

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Staff writer Bret Strelow contributed to this report.

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