UCLA: North Carolina Tar Heels

LOS ANGELES -- Admit it: You didn't think Larry Drew II was going to be this good.

It's OK, not very many people did.

His track record at North Carolina gave very few indications that he'd turn into the single-season assist record holder at UCLA and the player who has hit more game-winning, late-game and late-clock clutch shots than any other Bruin this season.

Drew left North Carolina with the nickname "Turnover Jesus" and with the stigma of a quitter after his departure was portrayed as sneaking off into the night in the middle of the 2011 ACC season.

[+] EnlargeLarry Drew II
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesLarry Drew II has overcome plenty of adversity during his college career, and now, as UCLA's lone senior, he will lead the young Bruins into the NCAA tournament.
He has silenced critics of both his play and his attitude this season, emerging as both a playmaker and floor leader for a young UCLA team, and earning first-team All Pac-12 honors. Those roles figure to become even more prominent this week as the Bruins begin the NCAA tournament Friday against Minnesota in Austin, Texas.

Drew is the team's only senior and the only player on the roster with NCAA tournament experience. As the point guard, he'll be the guy with the ball in his hands most often. And not only that, but he has the experience of winning a national championship ring. Drew played part-time as a freshman on North Carolina's 2009 NCAA championship team.

UCLA has the nation's top-ranked recruiting class this season with top freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson getting much of the attention, but Drew, not long ago cast aside as a has-been, has become the team's most valuable new addition this season.

"I couldn't be happier for a player to play the way he has after all he had to go through," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "I think he really got a raw deal in terms of his reputation because he's been nothing short of a model teammate and exceptional leader for us this season."

Drew is averaging 7.6 points, is No. 4 in the nation with 7.4 assists per game and is No. 3 in the nation with an assist-turnover ratio of 3.12. On a team with three freshmen starters, Drew became the experienced leader, and in a season in which it seemed every game came down to the wire, Drew made clutch shot after clutch shot, including a buzzer-beating game winner against Washington Huskies and at least three other late-game shots that sealed victories.

And as the season has gone on, Drew's game has continued to evolve. Early on, he didn't score much, but as teams started to sag off him, he realized he'd have to do more than just distribute the ball. He's averaging 10.1 points and shooting 51.1 percent over the past 12 games. He has made 61.3 percent (19-of-31) of his 3-point attempts during that stretch.

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