Harrison Barnes Passes on NBA, Returns to UNC
Harrison Barnes will return to North Carolina for his sophomore season. (Icon SMI)
By Ryan Feldman
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Harrison Barnes will be a Tar Heel for at least one more year.
The 6-foot-8 freshman has decided to return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore season, multiple sources very close to Barnes told me tonight.
Barnes averaged 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game this season. He came on strong late in the season, including a 40-point performance against Clemson in the ACC tournament.
Barnes was projected as a top-10 pick for sure, possibly even as high as a top-3 pick in this year's NBA Draft.
John Henson and Tyler Zeller had previously announced they will return to UNC for another year as well. With Barnes, Henson, Zeller, Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock all returning, plus the addition of McDonald's All-Americans James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston, the Tar Heels are the early favorites to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason.
This is not the first time Roy Williams convinced potential first round picks to stay for an extra year. In 2008, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson were considering entering the NBA Draft, but they returned to Chapel Hill and won the 2009 National Championship.
Williams, Barnes and the Tar Heels hope to repeat the same story once again next season.
Could the potential NBA lockout have played a role in Barnes' decision to return? Possibly. But more importantly, Barnes will get an extra year to develop and a chance to win a National Championship with a loaded roster.
Barnes isn't the only ACC freshman putting off the NBA to return to school. NC State freshman CJ Leslie has also decided to return for his sophomore year, according to a source who spoke with Leslie Thursday night.
Leslie averaged 11 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season. After Sidney Lowe resigned as the NC State coach, Mark Gottfried was hired as his successor.