North Carolina forwards John Henson and Tyler Zeller will return to Chapel Hill for their junior and senior seasons, respectively, the school announced Wednesday. Meanwhile, Tar Heels freshman Harrison Barnes is still reviewing information about the possibility of declaring for the NBA Draft.
"John and Tyler certainly considered their options, but in the end it came down to how much they enjoyed not only college basketball, but being part of the collegiate experience both on and off the court," UNC coach Roy Williams said in a prepared statement. "I spoke to about 10 NBA teams on their behalf and gave them that information, but their individual decisions are less about the NBA and more about what they wanted to do right now and the experiences they are enjoying at the University of North Carolina."
Barnes, the team's co-leading scorer who has been projected as a top-five pick in online mock drafts, "is not as far along in his decision-making process as were Tyler and John," Williams said. "I am still gathering information on him from NBA teams and hope to provide him with all of that information by the end of next week."
The wing has until April 24 to declare for the draft. If he doesn't hire an agent, he can pull out of the draft by May 8.
Still, the return of at least two of the three is a good sign for the Tar Heels, who lose only one scholarship senior (graduate student Justin Knox) but will gain four freshmen - including five-star recruits P.J. Hairston and James McAdoo.
Henson, the ACC's defensive player of the year, was considered a first-round selection, but his father reiterated in an interview earlier Wednesday that his son didn't just want to get into the NBA - but to have a long career there. Another college season should help bulk up the lanky forward's frame as well as his offensive moves. And his return could help the Tar Heels improve on this season's trip to the NCAA regional finals.
"We had a fun and successful season, but we all want to improve on what we accomplished,'' Henson said in a prepared statement. "I know at some point I want to play in the NBA, but right now I want to enjoy my college life. My teammates and coaches are great, and I want to help them reach the big dreams we all share."
Zeller, a first-team Academic All-American, likely raised his NBA Draft stock by averaging 25.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in four NCAA tournament games. But he, too, said he had more he wanted to accomplish in Chapel Hill.
"I want to finish my college career, compete for championships and graduate on time," he said in the statement. "That means a lot to my family and me. Plus, I know I can get stronger and improve my all-around game with another year. We had a great season getting to the Elite Eight, but I would like a chance at going out with another title."
Chris Monter, publisher of College Basketball News, said Henson and Zeller would have been first-round draft picks and should remain that way.
"Obviously, both players have a lot of potential to be very high picks ... whenever they decide to come out," he said. or 919-829-8944
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