Friday, February 4, 2011

Larry Drew Leaves UNC; I Actually Wished He Had Stayed

It is being reported that Larry Drew II has left the University of North Carolina's hoops team. Unlike many Tar Heel fans, I'm actually sorry to see him go.

No, I'm not a big fan of Drew's play. I think he plays too fast and too hurried. I loved his defensive ability, his speed and passing ability. I just think he made some really bad decisions at times and just never developed enough of a shot to make anyone need to guard him.

Still, I hate that he's leaving.

He is probably the most "controversial" point guard at UNC since Adam Boone and the most "controversial" point guard on a good UNC team since King Rice. Rice stuck it out and eventually led the Heels to a Final Four. Boone couldn't cut it and left for Minnesota. I was hoping Drew was more like Rice.

Two things hurt Drew. One, he wasn't Ty Lawson or Raymond Felton. During the Roy Williams Era at Carolina, we've been spoiled by outstanding point guard play. Felton was at the point for Williams' first two seasons at Carolina and won the Cousey award and a championship. After a one-year gap (more on that later), Ty Lawson hit the scene in Chapel Hill and led the Heels to two Final Fours, one championship, the Cousey Award and an ACC Player Of the Year award.

Drew followed that up with his own big fanfare. While not as big a recruit as either Felton or Lawson, Drew still was an McD's All American. It just hasn't worked as the Heels missed the NCAAs in Drew's first season as the starter and then has been replaced in the starting lineup a couple of weeks ago and the Heels have flourished.

Still, Drew could have shown some more character and toughed it out.

I liken Drew to Quentin Thomas, another maligned Tar Heel point guard. They are nearly the identical player. Thomas was a freshman on the Heels 2005 NCAA title team. Drew was a frosh of the 2009 NCAA title team. Both guys are California guys who were a bit to quick for their own good. They turned the ball over, couldn't shoot and you just didn't trust them.

But Thomas stuck it out, and in his senior season of 2008, became one of the most beloved Heels. When Lawson went down with an injury, Thomas did a fantastic job filling in and gained the respect of every Carolina fan. On his senior day, he received one of the loudest ovations I have heard a Tar Heel receive. That says something since a guy named Tyler Hansbrough had his senior day the very next year.

That's what I was hoping for Drew. I know getting benched is a bit of a downer, but I was hoping that the fact that he is the son of a coach (his dad, Larry Drew, is the head coach of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks) that he'd collect himself and work hard to help the team. And going by the last four games, he was doing that. Against Boston College this week, Drew dropped 9 assists and looked pretty impressive on defense.

While Drew may not be the starter, he still could've been an important guy on this team.

Why he left really surprises and disappoints me. After all, Roy Williams has stood behind Drew last year and this year and defended his point guard. It was Williams that was getting a lot of flack for not benching Drew earlier in the year. Ol' Roy told us he believed in him ... but eventually did start freshman Kendall Marshall. To quit on a coach that stood by you is a bit lame. He believed in you until he just couldn't anymore. Drew could have returned the favor by working hard and helping the team.

Also, what else can Drew do? He won a title with the Heels in 2009. If/when he transfers then he'll have to sit one year before playing again. And when he does, it will be his senior season so he most likely won't make a huge difference anywhere and won't get what he is apparantly needing. If he stayed, he could've had his senior day at a great school that he helped with a national championship with. You can't get much better than that.

That's why this baffles me. He may not have been starting, but his minutes didn't drop by that much. And the times when both Drew and Marshall were out there seemed to work well. But when the going got tough, the tough quit. That's all you have to know. He quit on his team. I don't want quitters around the Carolina program and it's a shame that a kid like this decided to do so.

Now instead of finishing off his career at one of college basketball elite schools, he'll go to some mid-major or low-level "BCS conference" team to ride out his final year. Then he'll ride off into the sunset knowing that this was the highest level of basketball league he'd play in. Now he's thrown it all away.

Anyways, good luck Larry. I hope you find what you are looking for.

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