Thursday, April 17, 2008

Heels banquet may not produce news

Don’t be surprised if there’s not much news coming out of tonight’s basketball banquet at North Carolina.

Brandan Wright didn’t announce his decision to leave for the NBA draft at last year’s banquet. In 2005, Sean May, Raymond Felton and Marvin Williams also waited until later to announce for the draft.

Now Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, the three top players from the 2008 ACC and East Regional champions, are mulling complicated decisions.

The 2008 draft is expected to be stronger than the 2009 draft, so the North Carolina underclassmen would face less competition for top spots next year. Hansbrough in particular yearns for an NCAA title and almost certainly would finish his career as the ACC’s leading scorer if he returns for his senior season.

But Lawson’s draft status has slipped since last season because of injury and the perception that he’s not productive enough in half-court sets. Only a handful of NBA teams run fast-breaking offenses like North Carolina’s that would capitalize on Lawson’s speed. If Lawson is afraid his draft status will slip further, he might not return to school.

If Lawson and Ellington decide to leave, it will be difficult for Hansbrough to achieve his NCAA championship goals next season. Without his two best teammates, he will be targeted for more defensive pressure (and physical abuse) than ever. And his marvelous work ethic already has come close to maximizing his potential, though he still could stretch his perimeter shooting ability beyond the 3-point arc.

Bottom line, all three players face extraordinarily difficult decisions and don’t have to apply for the draft until April 27. If they’re not sure what to do, there’s no reason for them to announce anything tonight.

Taylor King transfer creates buzz

A quote from ex-Duke forward Taylor King on his decision to transfer to Villanova has created a buzz in the anti-Duke crowd.

"I didn't feel that at Duke I was in the right position to get to the next level," he said in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Coach (Jay) Wright will help me get to the next level. It's not that Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) wouldn't, because he's done it his whole career, but I think Villanova is where I fit the best."

King was in a difficult spot at Duke. He plays the same position and is in the same class as Kyle Singler. Though Singler isn’t as good a 3-point shooter as King, he’s superior in just about every other phase of the game.

But King does make one good point. Duke’s lack of a true, muscular center to block shots, rebound and defend in the post put King, Singler and Lance Thomas in uncomfortable positions last season against more physical opponents.

If King sees himself as a shooter and not a banger, Duke probably wasn’t the right spot for him.

– Ken Tysiac