"They said, `Any way you go, you can't make a bad move,' and they supported me throughout," Haywood said. "... But it was a situation where I felt I could improve myself and could definitely help this team if I came back."
So he did, and come next year's draft, Haywood could have several million reminders that his decision paid off. Given the lack of good centers in the NBA, an impressive senior season could vault Haywood to the top of the draft.
But for now, Haywood is concentrating on this season. He worked hard over the summer to improve his game.
"The coaches just tell me to work on everything," Haywood said. "They want to see me become a better free throw shooter, they want to see me step my game out, too. And at the same time, they want to see me become a better rebounder. If you're grabbing eight rebounds, grab 10. If you're getting 10, get 11. No matter how good you get, they always want you to improve something."
So Haywood, who led UNC with 7.5 rebounds per game last year, worked on it all. He shot plenty of free throws, hoping to get better than his 60-percent mark from the stripe last season.
He improved his ball handling and 15-foot jumper. Every one can remember Haywood's freshman season when he would catch the ball at the top of the key and look lost. He would pivot incessantly until a guard came to take the ball from him or the referee called a five-second violation. Now, Haywood is not so shy away from the goal.
Most importantly, however, Haywood worked on his conditioning. It's a change that's easy to see. He's quicker. He can play longer stretches of the game. His arms look more muscular. He's stronger and can be more physical.
"I'm just cock diesel," Haywood quipped.
"I've been very impressed with how hard he's gone at it in the workouts and in the running," UNC coach Matt Doherty said. "He made his mile time in 5:58, which is hard for a guy his size. You see him trucking around, and he runs hard."
Haywood is now in shape to bang with the NBA's big boys next season. And he should be able to dominate college centers. His progress should force opponents to double-team him in the low block.
"If you get it into Brendan, the defense is basically going to have to collapse," Doherty said. "If they don't, he'll have a field day. And when they do collapse, he's unselfish and can find the open shooters."
Haywood proved that in the Blue-White game. He scored 22 points and dished out six assists. Yet Haywood still has things to work on and refine. He can get better. And it could be scary.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.
"If Brendan can play the way he played toward the end of last season, I don't think there's anybody who can stop him," junior Brian Bersticker said.
And Haywood, whose motivation has been questioned in the past, has to be excited about what his future holds.
"When you're a senior at Carolina, you've got a chance to do great things and have a great, long career ahead of you in the NBA," Doherty said. "He has all that ahead of him, so if he's not excited about that, something's wrong. But it certainly looks like he's fired up."