John Henson and fellow North Carolina basketball players competed against other students on Monday at the basketball courts near Cobb Residence Hall.
The spectators Monday had one united wish — to see the team’s stars return for the next basketball season.
“It’s something for them to watch and still see there’s basketball and that we aren’t going anywhere,” Henson said, then paused. “I mean, that we’re not going anywhere right now.”
Henson, a projected lottery pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, said he’ll have a decision on his plans for next year by Saturday. Teammate Harrison Barnes, who is all but guaranteed a top-five pick in the draft, will have fans wait just a few days longer.
“It’ll probably be in at least a week, week and a half or so,” Barnes said.
The deadline for early entry into the draft is April 24.
Among the Tar Heels who competed Monday were Henson, Barnes, Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, Justin Watts and Daniel Bolick. Injured forward Reggie Bullock stood on the sideline while he continues his recovery from knee surgery in March.
UNC junior big man Tyler Zeller, who is projected by some draft analysts to go in the first round of July’s draft, was not at Cobb.
“It’s the offseason so we try to fellowship with our fellow students as much as we can,” McDonald said. “Coming out here and playing with them, it can’t be too much harm. We stay in the Dean Dome a lot so we’re just showing them we still got skills.”
Marshall, McDonald, Barnes, and Henson played together in the first two games and chose a UNC student to be on their team. On the other end of the court, students rushed to the free-throw line to determine who would be on the team to play against them.
The athletes handily defeated their competition and showed fans what they came to see. Henson threw several shot attempts into the backcourt, Barnes flushed several Kobe Bryant-like dunks and Marshall used ball-handling tricks to confuse his defenders.
On one occasion, Marshall forgot he wasn’t playing in the Smith Center. The freshman point guard bodied an opponent in the paint before scoring the bucket.
“I got in game mode,” he shouted to the sideline.
McDonald, Henson and Barnes all said despite having fun, they couldn’t let the students win.
“We can’t let them do that,” McDonald said. “If we start doing that, they’ll believe they can win them all.”
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