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Will Lawson, Ellington return to UNC? Stay tuned

DETROIT (AP) ó North Carolina had to wait nearly two months last year to find out whether Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington would stay in the NBA draft or return to school.

Now, with a championship in hand, the waiting begins again for the Tar Heels.

Ellington said it was too soon to say whether he will return for his senior season after being named the most outstanding player at the Final Four. Lawson said the same thing.

“I don’t know yet,” Lawson said when asked whether it was his last college game. “I’m going to go back and talk to my parents and see what they want to do and see what the best option is for me.”

However, freshman big man Ed Davis ó who had 11 points and eight rebounds in 14 minutes ó said he’s coming back.

“I will be back next year,” Davis said. “I mean, I’m just not ready. I’ll be back in class on Wednesday.”


COVER YOUR EYES: Goran Suton got an up-close look at this blowout.

After missing Michigan State’s first loss to North Carolina this season, he was their best player four months later in Monday night’s NCAA championship game.

On the bench or on the court, Suton saw the Tar Heels stomp the Spartans twice this season.

Suton sat out North Carolina’s December romp in Ford Field with a knee injury, but played 31 minutes in the Spartans’ 89-72 loss to the Tar Heels in the national championship game.

Suton had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the final game of his Michigan State career. He blocked a couple of shots and made seven baskets ó or one fewer than Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers combined.

Suton, who fled war-torn Bosnia on a military airplane as a child, couldn’t find a weakness in the Tar Heels’ lineup.

“One of the five players, you can sag off or do certain things,” Suton said. “With North Carolina all five players are scorers. Everybody can do something. It was tough to help. I think we got caught up trying to stick with our man.”

It was the first time in three trips that Michigan State had lost in the title game; it won in 1979 and 2000. But the Spartans appearance here did keep another streak alive: Every four-year player recruited by coach Tom Izzo ó like Suton ó has appeared in at least one Final Four.

“It was great to see this senior class go out the way they did,” Izzo said. “It was a struggle to get here, and they had a lot of pressure on them, and I thought they handled it incredibly well. We looked like a team that ran out of gas a little bit, maybe deservingly so.”


VALIDATED:@ North Carolina freshman Tyler Zeller could have redshirted after breaking his wrist in the second game of the season. Instead, he came back after missing 13 weeks, because he wanted to help the Tar Heels win a national championship.

He returned in February against North Carolina State, giving him the guarantee of just five regular-season games, along with at least one game in the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournaments.

Instead, he ended up playing 13 games ó including 1 minute of action in the title game against Michigan State. He went 1-for-2 from the foul line and had one rebound.

Did the title validate his decision to burn a year of eligibility for what amounted to less than half a season?

“Definitely,” he said in the victorious locker room. “It was validated before, but at the same time, this is just extra on the top.”


SPENT GINYARD:@ Marcus Ginyard didn’t play a minute for North Carolina, but he looked exhausted nonetheless.

The senior was the versatile leader of last year’s Final Four squad and the team’s best perimeter defender. But preseason foot surgery forced him to redshirt this year, sending him to the sidelines after three ineffective appearances in a slow recovery.

That didn’t mean Ginyard ó who has been practicing with the team ó wasn’t active during the win against Michigan State. He was jumping around on the bench as the final minutes of the game ticked away, then joined his teammates for a midcourt celebration at the horn.

Afterward, wearing a dress shirt and tie along with a championship hat, he slouched in a locker at Ford Field.

“I just feel so drained right now,” he said. “I just left everything out there. I feel like I played tonight. You’re just so happy. You’re so excited. Any positive emotion you can think of, you’re probably feeling it.”


MAKING MAGIC: Thirty years later, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are still as captivating.

The duo whose rivalry changed college basketball and turned the NCAA tournament into March Madness, were together again Monday night. The NCAA asked them to present the ball before the title game in honor of the 30th anniversary of their iconic matchup, and the two friends joked and laughed as they reminisced about that game and what it meant to them.

“We played the game the right way. We didn’t play it for ourselves, we played it for our team,” Johnson said when asked why Americans still have a fascination with the two of them. “We were two unique guys being over 6-8, being able to handle the ball, being able to score inside or outside, being able to make the right pass to our teammates. Because we really didn’t care about scoring. We really cared about winning the game.

“And then you have one player black, one player white. One player who smiles, one who don’t ó except right now,” Johnson said, flashing that dazzling smile as he put a hand on Bird’s shoulder. “I think it was just special.”

Bird and Johnson were already stars in 1979, but it was a much different era then. There were a handful of channels to choose from, not a few hundred. Players were lucky to get on national television once, maybe twice during the regular season, and there were no Web sites or ESPN to chronicle the every move of every team.

But Magic and Bird produced a seismic shift in the game. Their personalities were as different as their games ó Magic was the outgoing city kid with the dazzling smile, Bird was the shy guy from rural Indiana ó and the fact that their rivalry continued well into their NBA careers has made their first meeting seem that much more special.

That the fierce rivals became such good friends made them all the more appealing. Their affection was clear Monday, with Johnson often putting his arm around Bird’s shoulders and both making references to conversations they’ve had before. And Bird is still very much Johnson’s straight man.

“I always tell people, Michael (Jordan) was the greatest in the air that I’ve ever seen, and Larry Bird is the greatest that ever played on the ground. Because Larry couldn’t jump but that high,” Johnson said, holding his thumb and index finger slightly apart.

“Not like you was flying through the air either,” Bird deadpanned. “Trip over the painted lines.”


Associated Press National Writer Nancy Armour and AP Sports Writers Aaron Beard, Dan Gelston and Larry Lage contributed to this report.


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