Friday, February 4, 2011

Drew departure continues California exodus from Chapel Hill

The stunning decision by North Carolina guard Larry Drew to leave Chapel Hill in the middle of the semester continues a trend in which recruits from the state of California have not remained in Chapel Hill.

Under Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge, the Tar Heels rarely went to California for players. Center Scott Williams was one of the few from that state to play in Chapel Hill. But Roy Williams had established deep connections to California in his time at Kansas, and he continued to recruit that state, with success, at UNC.

But the shocking news that Drew is leaving marks the fourth time a California product has left Chapel Hill early under Williams. Alex Stepheson transferred to Southern Cal after playing the 2007 and 2008 seasons in Chapel Hill.

Last season, David and Travis Wear surprised Williams after the season when their father told him after the season they were transferring. They eventually picked UCLA.

Drew continued that trend Friday, and in a manner similarly surprising. Williams, in a news release, said Drew’s father told him the son would leave. (You’d think the players, in the cases of both the Wears and Drew, would have had the nerve to tell the coach themselves).

Regardless, it’s a stunning development for a team that appeared to be hitting its stride with that win at Boston College.

Carolina never seemed to play to its potential with Drew at point guard, and UNC fans heaped criticism on him for last season’s failures. Fair or not, it was clear Carolina had renewed fire when Kendall Marshall took over at point. Marshall is a deft passer and his teammates just exude more joy and confidence with him on the floor.

Drew had appeared to take the demotion gracefully. He played 19 minutes in the impressive win at Boston College Tuesday. He didn’t score a point but had nine assists. From the outside, he certainly appeared ready to share the ball and put winning first.

With Drew gone, that knocks a hole in Carolina’s depth, but not one that is unsurmountable. It solidifies Marshall’s job at point guard and means Reggie Bullock will get more minutes. Not a bad thing but still, a stunning development in Chapel Hill, where players rarely voice public displeasure over playing time.

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