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Friday, February 4, 2011
Carolina will be fine without Larry Drew II


Larry Drew II decided to bolt from North Carolina on Friday, just four days into February.

The move -- at this time of the year -- makes no sense.

Drew would have to find a school that's on the quarter system to play midseason next season. Most schools have a deadline of 12 days after the semester has started to enroll for that semester. In this case, Drew would have missed the deadline on a majority of schools. If Drew has to sit out a year, which is the more likely scenario, he would then have one full season of eligibility remaining in 2012-13.

But a coach would have to take on Drew without assurance that he could be a difference-maker, unless Drew were to go down to the mid-major level of Division I, where he could have more of an impact. He's not projected to be an NBA player so college basketball would be his final stopping point at a high level in the sport.

Drew, who was replaced in the starting lineup four games ago by Kendall Marshall, essentially quit on this team. It's a situation similar to Minnesota's Devoe Joseph, who bolted last month and headed to Oregon, or Cal's Gary Franklin, who stunned coach Mike Montgomery and left for Baylor, or Kansas State's Wally Judge, who quit on the Wildcats last month over playing time.

The departure of West Virginia's Dan Jennings meant nothing more than five fouls gone when Bob Huggins needed them. Jennings was deep on the bench and his literal walk-off was more of a scene than something that would tangibly hurt the Mountaineers.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo dumped Korie Lucious for a violation of team rules, so that was a decision from the top down.

Lucious was on a visit to Iowa State on Friday about possibly transferring, according to a source close to the situation. The Cyclones have already taken two other former Big Ten players who were rejected by their teams for off-court issues: Lucious' former teammate Chris Allen and one-time Minnesota signee Royce White. Lucious would have one season of eligibility. Iowa State is hoping to land top-50 players on the rebound, even if it's for one season in the case of Lucious. But according to a source, they wouldn't have an interest in Drew.

Joseph's departure was a crushing blow to the Gophers because they needed his scoring, even if he was complaining about shot attempts and minutes. When Al Nolen broke his foot it made Joseph's departure even more glaring, since he would have been the point guard in Nolen's absence instead of making shooting guard Blake Hoffarber the point.

Judge hurt the Wildcats' depth. Franklin was a blow because the Bears lack quality guard play, although they ended up having a better and more important freshman in the backcourt in Allen Crabbe. Crabbe, not Franklin, is the reason the Bears are a surprising 6-4 in the Pac-10. So Franklin quit on the Bears and they actually may be better for it, with more attention focused on Crabbe.

Marshall isn't close to being Ty Lawson or Raymond Felton, the last two point guards on North Carolina's national championship teams in 2005 and 2009, respectively. But Marshall was more suited to be the lead guard than Drew once he was given the chance. Whether it's a coincidence or not, the Tar Heels have won four in a row with Marshall starting and Drew coming off the bench.

The reason the Tar Heels have clicked is more because of Harrison Barnes hitting his shots (a game-winning 3-pointer at Miami, 25 points to beat NC State, 26 points in a rout at BC). Losing Drew shouldn't cripple the Tar Heels one bit. It might actually make them even tighter as a team with the Tar Heels tied in the loss column with Duke, just a half-game behind the Blue Devils overall in the ACC.

Drew was never going to be equal to the previous star point guards that won titles at UNC, either. He didn't have the speed. He didn't have the ability to beat players off the dribble and change the tone of the game. He was a distributor who had the potential to be a solid point guard -- not a star, but more than serviceable. But he wasn't going to be the player who ran the Tar Heels' secondary break to its max under coach Roy Williams.

Williams had plenty of success stories recruiting California for Kansas. That hasn't been the case at UNC, as detailed by ESPN Stats & Info, but the Carolina faithful shouldn't call for a stoppage on tapping California because of this latest departure.

The departure of the Wear twins caught Williams off guard and did hurt the Tar Heels' depth. But the Wears' decision to go to UCLA at least came in May, not in February.

Drew's numbers the past two seasons have dipped because the freshman class was more of a contributing group than the previous season.

But he was still a player who contributed in key spots, like dishing out nine assists and having only one turnover in 19 minutes in the win at BC on Tuesday. He could have accepted his role as a second-unit player to settle things down. He could have been a team player and helped UNC in the final month. Instead, he left.

Drew's minutes will be eaten up by others, probably Dexter Strickland at backup point guard. He has done that before. And as Carolina continues to make its run toward an NCAA berth and to challenge Duke in the ACC, the loser in this decision will likely be Drew, not North Carolina.