Facing The Harsh Reality: For Some Tar Heels, This is the Last Dance


It’s happened before, most recently in 2009 when Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green all decided to come back for another run.  Even this past season UNC feared the departures of Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson, but they call back to Chapel Hill.  It would be nothing short of a dream come true if Henson, Barnes and Kendall Marshall were to all pick college over the pro’s again and comeback next year.  But the reality of it is, we’re likely to see just one of them back next year.  With Tyler Zeller graduating, this is sadly, the last big dance for many of the Tar Heels top players.

Say what you want about Harrison Barnes and what he didn’t do.  What he did do is show that he can play and NBA game.  He’s got an excellent mid range jumper, three point range.  He can defend his position and is starting to show he can rebound a little bit.  He’s unselfish and plays an efficient game.  No, he did not explode this season and win the national player of the year and lead the nation in scoring like we expected him to.  But the All-ACC forward has had an excellent college career.  Barnes has been asked a lot about his future and for the most part he’s political and says he’s focused on the next game.  But even Harrison has admitted if this team cuts down the nets in New Orleans as national champions he would most likely walk away.  I would love to see him take another year in college.  Focus this off season on building his body a little bit more, establishing a high post game.  Working on his dribble penetration a little bit and becoming a more consistent force on both ends of the floor.  But NBA millions and a likely lottery pick await in June for Barnes if he wants it, and that’s a hard thing to pass up.

John Henson came into college as the top recruit without a position.  After a giant growth spurt late in high school, Henson was suddenly more suited for the post, but his rail thin frame made it easy to want to move him to the perimeter.  After struggling with finding his on court identity his freshman year, Henson was moved back to the post his sophomore campaign.  He blossomed into a star defensive player and a terrific rebounder.  Now, as a junior he is one of just two players in history to win the ACC Defensive player of the year award and is the conferences leading rebounder.  Henson worked very hard and has added a nice offensive game this season.  He suddenly has a nice post up game complete with quick, strong moves to the basket.  Hook shots with either hand and a nice turn around jumper.  His mid range jump shot has also developed into a weapon.  A sure fire NBA lottery pick, Henson is in a familiar position.  He still sports a rather thin frame and is likely to get pushed around his first couple seasons in the pro’s.  Another year at Chapel Hill to further develop his body and offensive game could do wonders for Henson.  But for a player who waited three years to realize his potential and finally has, it’s going to be next to impossible to get him back, especially if the Heels win it all.

Kendall Marshall is the player I think will come back.  The All-ACC team snub who many spend far too much time criticizing his defense and especially his shooting.  Marshall would be one of the top PGs taken in this June’s draft if he were to leave.  But no doubt the info Roy Williams would receive and the draft grades he would get are going to be critical.  Today’s NBA is stocked with fast, strong points and being a liability on defense is not an option if you want to be a starting PG in the NBA.  Marshall also still has to prove that he can shoot well enough to make teams respect his offensive game.  Spacing is a much larger part of the pro game than it is in college and he must prove that before a team will hand him the keys.  I think Kendall is smart enough to know that, and being a sophomore, I think we’ll see him back in Chapel Hill regardless of what happens.  I just hope Harrison or John decide to surprise me again this year and stick around with him.

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