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April 25, 2008

UNC's big three make their decisions

CHAPEL HILL - Tyler Hansbrough, the 2007-08 National Player of the Year, will return to the University of North Carolina for his senior year and sophomore guards Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson will declare for the NBA Draft but not hire agents, allowing for the possibility for them to return to school at a later date.

"I am pleased and most supportive of the decisions made by all three young people," says head coach Roy Williams. "I want what is best for each individual, and each individual player is different and has different factors to consider. It was a very exhausting time of research spent talking to the NBA people. I contacted more than half the teams in the NBA, speaking to various player personnel representatives including a number of general managers. In fact, I contacted more teams this year than I've ever done before to provide them with the best information possible on their draft status. We gave that information over to Tyler, Ty, Wayne and their families and allowed them to make the decision. We will continue to help Ty and Wayne with the draft process and give them all the support they need in making any future decisions related to staying in the draft or returning to Carolina."

Hansbrough received every major National Player of the Year award this past season after averaging 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He earned ACC Player of the Year honors unanimously---becoming just the third player in league history to be a three-time unanimous All-ACC selection---and was named Most Valuable Player of both the ACC Tournament and the NCAA East Regional this past spring.

With his decision to return, Hansbrough now stands in line to break several prominent UNC and Atlantic Coast Conference records. Currently the No. 2 scorer in UNC school history, Hansbrough has an excellent shot, barring injury, of breaking the school's scoring record, and has a chance as well of becoming the ACC's all-time leading scorer. He also has a chance of becoming North Carolina's all-time leader in rebounding.

"I am returning to school for my senior year as a Tar Heel and will not be applying for the NBA Draft," says Hansbrough. "I love playing at North Carolina and still have big dreams to realize here, including graduating. Of course I look forward to playing in the NBA some day but not next year. I love my collegiate experience and want to finish my four years here, then move on to my next dream of playing in the NBA. I am very relieved that this decision is behind us and I can concentrate on my academic work and improving my game for next season."

Hansbrough has earned first-team All-America and first-team All-ACC honors in each his first three seasons. He was named 2007-08 Collegiate Player of the Year by The Associated Press, the NABC, the USBWA, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, CBS/Chevrolet, ESPN.com, Basketball Times, the Commonwealth Club of Kentucky (Rupp Award), the Atlanta Tipoff Club (Naismith Award) and the Los Angeles Athletic Club (Wooden Award).

The Poplar Bluff, Mo., native has scored 2,168 points and grabbed 943 rebounds.

He is the second-leading scorer in Carolina history and is first among ACC players and eighth in NCAA history in free throws made with 733. In 2008, he became the fourth player in ACC history (with UNC's Lennie Rosenbluth in 1957, Duke's Christian Laettner in 1992 and UNC's Antawn Jamison in 1998) to win National Player of the Year, NCAA Regional MVP, ACC Tournament MVP and ACC Player of the Year honors in the same season.

Ellington and Lawson have helped lead Carolina to a 69-10 record with a pair of ACC regular-season titles, two ACC Tournament championships and berths in the Elite Eight and Final Four in their first two seasons. Ellington has scored 1,092 points, was a second team All-ACC selection in 2007-08 and has earned ACC All-Tournament Team honors in both seasons. He scored a career-best 36 points in a dramatic overtime win at Clemson, scored 20 or more points nine times as a sophomore and has the ninth-best free throw percentage in Carolina history.

Lawson missed seven games during North Carolina's ACC schedule after injuring his ankle against Florida State in early February, but finished the year with averages of 12.7 points and 5.2 assists per game. He is currently projected as a late-first round to early-second round selection, although a series of strong performances at the NBA Pre-Draft events could very well improve his stock.

"I am applying for the 2008 NBA Draft, but not hiring an agent," says Lawson. "I will work out for NBA teams to get a more precise evaluation of my draft status. After I do that and get more information from the teams, I will make a decision to either stay in the draft or come back to North Carolina for my junior year. I am in good standing academically and plan on doing a great job in my final exams."

Lawson has averaged 11.3 points and 5.4 assists in his first two seasons. The Clinton, Md., native directed an offense that was second nationally in scoring and led the ACC in scoring, field goal percentage, assists and assist-turnover ratio. He shot 51.5 percent from the floor and 83.5 percent from the free throw line this year and helped Carolina average 88.6 points per game en route to winning a school-record 36 games.

Ellington averaged 16.6 points per game during the 2007-2008 season, earning second-team All-ACC honors. The sophomore shot 40 percent from three-point range, and hit a memorable three-pointer at the buzzer to lift UNC to a victory over Clemson at mid-season. In addition to being named to the first-team All-ACC Tournament team, Ellington was named an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American.

"I am applying for the NBA Draft, but I am not hiring an agent," says Ellington, a native of Wynnewood, Pa. "I will comply with all the necessary rules to make certain that my NCAA eligibility is not negatively affected. I really enjoy North Carolina and my teammates. I'm not dying to leave here, but playing in the NBA is another dream I have. During the next couple of months I hope to work out for NBA teams and get a more specific evaluation of where I would be positioned in this year's draft. After I receive the information from the NBA teams, I will decide to either stay in the draft or come back for my junior year. Next week is exam time at UNC and that's also important to me. I will continue to remain in good academic standing regardless of the decision that awaits me."

The league's pre-draft camp is scheduled for May 27-June 2 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Players are not permitted to work out with individual NBA teams until June 3 and may withdraw their names from the draft by 5 p.m. on Monday, June 16th. The 2008 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, June 26th at New York's Madison Square Garden.

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