Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Drew decision

The Drew decision

Well, that came out of nowhere. Larry Drew II was never likely to make frequent appearances in Carolina basketball highlight reels, but to quit the team in the middle of the season, five days before the Duke game? A guy averaging more than 20 minutes a game for a ranked basketball team just doesn't do that. Unless something's not right.

Sure, Drew had lost his starting point guard job four games ago. But his minutes hadn't dropped significantly -- he became the sixth man, a defensive stopper, and the quality of his play improved once he started coming off the bench.

Did Drew's mother play a role? She's been a pain to her other kids' high school coaches. Maybe she hassled Ol' Roy, too.

But the Heels' troubles with Larry II came from Larry Sr. -- not because the elder Drew (who was a backup point guard for the Lakers at the end of the Magic Johnson era and is now head coach of the Atlanta Hawks) gave Roy a lot of grief. At least as far as anyone knows.

It's because Larry II had the bloodlines and (apparently) a wonderful teacher and blew his opportunity. He was a McDonald's High School All-American, even though he never showed great athleticism or shooting skills or defensive prowess. Why? The old man. Larry Sr. probably taught him how to overcome his lack of physical talent by teaching him to read defenses, handle the ball in traffic, find open teammates, and defend the passing lanes. So he could take raw high school kids who were quicker and stronger and better jumpers to the cleaners by outsmarting them. When he had to do the same against Division I college talent, facing the level of competition Carolina plays, Larry II wasn't up to the job. Unless he worked really hard, which he showed little inclination of doing before he lost his starting position.

I actually watched the McDonald's All American game that Drew and Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller played in. One of the commentators said Drew looked like a four-year college player who wouldn't wow anyone with his sheer talent but would play a fundamentally solid game and provide decent leadership. This should have been code for -- he's not that good but he's learned a lot from his dad.

Drew's successor as point guard, freshman Kendall Marshall, also is a McDonald's All American. He's not that gifted athletically (his teammates joke about how slow he is), but unlike Drew, he's a pure gym rat who seems to learn fast.

If the Heels are to stay near the top of the ACC, and have a chance to play more than one weekend in the Big Dance, Marshall will have to be able to play 32 minutes rather than 22, stay out of foul trouble, and not be a defensive liability. Oh yeah, and it'll help if Dexter Strickland, who'll now become Marshall's relief man, stops being The Human Turnover. (Maybe one of the walk-ons can steal a few minutes at the point.)

Meantime, Roy will no doubt try to find an uncommitted high school senior or a JUCO who can help out at the point next year.