Henson, Zeller pass on NBA, returning to Tar Heels
North Carolina's big men are passing on the NBA for another run at a national championship. The Tar Heels will have to wait a little longer to learn the plans of freshman Harrison Barnes.
The school announced junior 7-footer Tyler Zeller and sophomore John Henson will return to Chapel Hill next season, but said Barnes ''is still reviewing information'' as he considers whether to enter the draft.
Zeller and Henson were second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference picks as the Tar Heels won the league regular-season championship and reached an NCAA regional final.
In a statement, coach Roy Williams said he spoke to about 10 NBA teams to investigate where the two players might go in the draft. But he said their decisions were ''less about the NBA and more about what they wanted to do right now and the experiences they are enjoying'' in college.
Zeller averaged a team-high 15.7 points to go with 7.2 rebounds, but he upped those numbers to nearly 26 points and nine rebounds on 59 percent shooting during the NCAA tournament. He also won this year's Skip Prosser Award as the ACC's top scholar-athlete in men's basketball and was named a first-team Academic All-America by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
''I came to Carolina because it had the balance of academics and basketball I wanted and it was the best place for me to prepare for life and a career in the NBA,'' Zeller said in a statement. ''That's exactly what we have here. I want to finish my college career, compete for championships and graduate on time.''
Henson, a lean 6-foot-10 forward, averaged about 12 points and 10 rebounds as the team's top interior defender.
''I know at some point I want to play in the NBA, but right now I want to enjoy my college life,'' Henson said in a statement. ''My teammates and coaches are great and I want to help them reach the big dreams we all share.''
Williams said Barnes, a freshman who finished second to Zeller in scoring by a single point, ''is not as far along in his decision-making process.'' Williams said he hopes to provide the 6-8 forward with all information from NBA teams by the end of next week.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is April 24. They can withdraw their names from the draft by May 8 to preserve their eligibility.
The draft will be held June 23.