The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

March Sadness: Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall will leave UNC to enter the NBA draft

Men's basketball vs. Georgia Tech on Sunday, January 29, 2012 at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC.
Buy Photos Men's basketball vs. Georgia Tech on Sunday, January 29, 2012 at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC.

With one fell swoop, the future of North Carolina basketball became a little bit hazier.

On Thursday afternoon, junior forward John Henson, sophomore forward Harrison Barnes and sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall all announced their decision to leave UNC and enter the 2012 NBA draft.

Coach Roy Williams said during his radio show Monday he didn’t think the decision-making process for the trio would be drawn out.
He wasn’t kidding.

The announcement comes just four days after UNC’s 2011-12 season ended at the hands of Kansas in the Elite Eight. And while Williams said their departure is bittersweet for him as a coach, he can’t help but be proud of their progression toward their dreams.

“When I recruit a young man I talk to them about their ultimate goals, and each of them are taking that next step toward reaching the goals they spoke to me about,” Williams said. “I am extremely pleased for them … They have been and will always be great Tar Heels.”

According to mock draft website Draft Express, Barnes is expected to be the seventh overall pick in the draft on June 28. It predicts Henson will be picked eighth and Marshall 14th.

Success is likely for the three first-rounders. But for UNC, the future’s a bit more unknown.

Provided freshman draft prospect James Michael McAdoo sticks to his plan to return to UNC next season, the Tar Heels will lose 69.2 percent of its offensive production.

Senior Tyler Zeller, who will graduate in May, was one of UNC’s top three leading scorers during the 2011-12 campaign alongside Barnes and Henson. He’s predicted to be the 10th overall draft pick.

Marshall, who was fifth on the team in scoring, finished the season with 351 assists — 299 more than his next closest teammate, Reggie Bullock, and good for the ACC single-season record.

Henson, a two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year, averaged nearly a double-double per game for UNC this season, and Barnes led the team in scoring, averaging 17.1 per game.

When Barnes decided to return for his sophomore season last April, he said the team was preparing for a “special season,” and that they were working to bring a national championship back to Chapel Hill.

But Sunday, the Tar Heels fell just a little bit short of that goal.

Barnes was either the first- or second-leading scorer for the Tar Heels in each of his two seasons. But in his final two games as a Tar Heel, the No. 1 high school recruit finished 8-for-30 from the floor, 2-for-14 from long range.

By the looks of a disappointed Barnes in the locker room after Sunday’s game, it might not have been the kind of farewell performance he was hoping for. Some thought he’d return to avoid leaving on a less-than-high note.

But in the end, a chance at the professional ranks was just too appealing — for Barnes, and his teammates.

“It’s tough to leave because I love my teammates, coaches and UNC. I wish we’d been able to bring our fans a national championship, but it wasn’t meant to be,” Henson said in a press release.
“I am proud of what we accomplished, especially the last two years.”

Now, those that are left behind will try and pursue the same goal the 2011-12 squad strived for but failed to reach. Only this time, it might be a little bit harder.

Contact the Sports Editor
at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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