UNC’s Green finds rhythm
By Beth Rucker
Associated PressMEMPHIS, Tenn. ó Roy Williams called Danny Green into his office after the ACC Tournament.
The North Carolina coach was worried with his senior’s shooting. Green had averaged 16.4 points in the last four games of the regular season, then gone 3-for-25 in Atlanta.
“And two of those were tip-ins,” Williams quipped Saturday.
“I did want to see if there’s anything wrong,” Williams added. “I didn’t know if I could fix it, but I knew that it was part of my job to try to find out if there was something wrong, or if it was, like Danny said, just a bad weekend.”
Turns out, Green really just had a bad weekend of shooting.
Now Green enters today’s South Regional final between the top-seeded Tar Heels (31-4) and No. 2 seed Oklahoma (30-5) averaging 12 points in three NCAA tournament games.
Green credits Williams with telling him to just play and not press.
“From then, I’ve just been playing and not really stressing or pressing anything and losing myself in the game, and things have gone my way,” Green said.
Even when his shot isn’t falling, Green still finds ways to contribute. He averages 1.3 blocks and 1.9 steals per game and was named to the ACC all-defensive team this season.
He’s helped fill in for fellow senior Marcus Ginyard, the team’s top defender who was benched by foot surgery in October, though Green claims his style is more of a gambling one compared to Ginyard’s ó much to Williams’ chagrin.
In North Carolina’s wins over Radford and LSU, Green averaged a team-high eight rebounds and totaled five steals. In the regional semifinal win over Gonzaga on Friday night, he scored 13 points, tied a career high with seven assists, collected four steals and had two blocks.
“Danny is a stat sheet stuffer for our column,” point guard Ty Lawson said. “He does everything: blocked shots, rebounds, scores.”
The North Babylon, N.Y., native has played in more games (142) and more wins (120) than any North Carolina player in history and is the only Tar Heel to have 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, 100 blocks and 100 steals in his career.
Green tested his standing in the NBA draft last season. Like teammates Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington, he returned for another season.
“My motivations are still the same thing that they were before: Win a national championship,” Green said. “Now that it’s my senior year, it’s that much more important.”
By returning, he got a chance at something he hadn’t done since his freshman year: play in front of his father, Danny Sr.
His father was sent to prison during his son’s sophomore year after pleading guilty to drug charges. He was required to remain on Long Island during Green’s junior season while on probation.
This season, his probation officer has allowed him to make a few trips south to watch Green play. He was there for the Tar Heels’ Senior Day win over Duke on March 8 and is here in Memphis.
“To be able to see my dad there, of course, not knowing a couple of years ago whether he was going to be able to see another game of mine, it meant a lot,” Danny Green said.
Dad may be in for a treat today. His son has the assignment of defending Tony Crocker, the Sooners guard who was mired in his own shooting slump before exploding for a career-high 28 points in Oklahoma’s win over Syracuse on Friday night.
Green also wouldn’t mind trying to take a few charges from Oklahoma big man Blake Griffin.
“I could definitely see myself stepping in and taking a charge,” Green said. “That’s what we’re going to need. We’re going to need to get them into some kind of foul trouble and do the little things to win the game.”