The 2009 Final Four is scheduled for April 4-6 at Detroit's Ford Field.
North Carolina basketball fans might want to mark their calendars. Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green said Monday they were returning to Chapel Hill for the 2008-09 season.
That means the Tar Heels will have the same starting lineup intact from last season's squad, which won a school-record 36 games, the ACC championship and reached the Final Four. Plus, coach Roy Williams has added three McDonald's All-Americans.
“I'm very pleased with their decisions because I get to coach them for another year,” he said in a statement released by the school.
“I feel strongly that all of these young men will eventually be NBA players. The timing was just not exactly right at this point.”
Lawson, Ellington and Green entered the draft in early April, but did not hire agents, which allowed them to go through the evaluation process and retain their college eligibility.
Lawson and Ellington, the starting backcourt, will be juniors. Green, the team's sixth man, will be a senior, as will consensus national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, who bypassed the NBA evaluation process.
Lawson, Ellington and Green participated in the NBA-sponsored draft camp in Orlando, Fla., on May 27-29 and worked out individually for several teams during the past two weeks.
It was a particularly eventful process for Lawson, who led the Tar Heels with 165 assists despite missing seven games with an injured ankle last season. Lawson, 20, was charged with driving after drinking and driving with a revoked license on June 6 in Chapel Hill. Two days later, he missed a scheduled workout with the Denver Nuggets.
He said during the process he would stay in the draft if he was a top-20 pick.
“I have decided it would be better to return to school,” Lawson said in a statement. “I look forward to playing next season and trying to win a national championship.”
Green, who averaged 11.5 points, injured his ankle and elbow during the Orlando camp. Despite the injuries, he worked out for Toronto, Cleveland and Chicago, among other teams, in hopes of playing his way into the first round.
“This was an easy decision for me because I'm going to enjoy my senior season with great teammates and our great coaching staff for one more year,” Green said.
With all three back, Williams returns his top six scorers from last season. The Tar Heels won the East Regional but lost in the national semifinals to Kansas, the eventual national champion.
With that experience and new talent, the Tar Heels aren't looking just to make the Final Four in Detroit.
“I am looking forward to working toward our goal of winning a national championship,” Ellington said.
North Carolina clearly has the ingredients of a national championship team, but the Tar Heels will face some challenges, said Dan Bonner, a longtime ACC TV analyst and former player at Virginia.
Bonner said there could be questions about chemistry.
“Even when you return everybody and add no one, you can't be assured you will be great,” he said. “People grow. People work harder. There's always a new dynamic.
“One of the amazing things about the job Roy has done … is how he has taken highly accomplished players and gotten them to accept roles to allow teams to be successful. That's one of his great strengths and a strength that will be put to the test this year.”
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