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June 24, 2009The chief fascination among basketball fans may lay with big men, but the path to victory in college basketball runs through the point guard position.
While some fans may disagree with this assessment, UNC coach Roy Williams is a firm believer that the predominant ball-handler has to be a superior player.
Williams is losing the best point guard in the country. Ty Lawson is expected to be selected in the first round of Thursday's 7 p.m. National Basketball Association draft. Lawson bypassed his final year of collegiate eligibility.
What concerns Williams is not the skill of Lawson's replacement, Larry Drew of Los Angeles, but the lack of depth along the perimeter in general.
Fifth-year senior Marcus Ginyard will have to play some at the point in addition to his duties as an off-guard and possible small forward.
"Yeah, he probably will because Larry is the only guy on the squad that has ever played point guard in a game," Williams said. "[Freshman] Leslie McDonald can do some things with the ball as a lead guard. [Freshman] Dexter Strickland has played some as the lead guard at his high school. But both of those guys are not naturally point guards like Larry Drew is.
"I think all four of those guys will have some time there at the point guard spot."
Drew played sparingly as a backup to Lawson during last year's national championship season. Drew averaged 9.6 minutes per game.
He spent the first session of summer school in Chapel Hill, taking classes, working out and playing pick-up ball with his teammates. Drew is at home this session, however.
The difference in him and someone else going home, though, is he will get great coaching while he's in California. His father, Larry Drew Sr., is a former NBA player and is an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks.
"He's working out twice a day with his father, who is an NBA assistant coach, and I'm very, very happy about that," Williams said.
Williams said there isn't any doubt Drew is going to have to realize more of his potential this year for UNC to be successful.
Drew shot 35 percent from the field and 23 percent (6-26) on three-point attempts his freshman year. Drew won the three-point shooting contest at the McDonald's All-American game during his senior year of high school so he has shown he can shoot.
"We told Larry he has to get better in every phase of the game," Williams said. "His shot is something everyone is going to question until he makes some. And he's not a bad shooter. He's just got to get it grooved and start making some of them.
"He's a true quarterback. He can pass the basketball. In those two or three games at the end of the year when we held Ty out [because of a toe injury], Larry did some good things in those games. I tell every player to improve in every area of the game, but the one thing is that Larry is going to have to make some jump shots so people will come out and play him."
When it's all said and done, even Williams might concede that as Drew goes this year, so go the Tar Heels.
"I looked in that class and thought we needed a point guard," Williams said. "For our program and what we look for, he was the best. We recruited Tyreke Evans [who went to Memphis for one year], but he was a one-and-done, and that wasn't going to help us.
"I think everybody here will be surprised at how good Larry Drew is this coming season. I think he has a chance to be a big-time player. I don't want him to be a big-time player. I need him to be a big-time player, and that's a big difference."