Larry Drew II leaves UNC basketball program

Larry Drew II leaves UNC basketball program

Published Feb. 4, 2011 5:57 p.m. ET

By Andrew Jones
February 4, 2011

Larry Drew II has left North Carolina's basketball program and will seek a transfer to another school, the university announced Friday afternoon.

Drew, a junior who lost his starting job four games ago after starting 54 straight games dating back to last season, informed the program of his decision effective immediately, and the move clearly caught UNC by surprise.

"This morning I spoke to Larry Drew Sr. and he informed me that it was in Larry's best interest to leave North Carolina at this time," UNC coach Roy Williams said in a statement released by the university. "Personally, I hate this for Larry and our team because he was such an important part of our team and he has continued to improve and played well in recent games. He was our defensive award winner in two of our last four games and has handled the ball really well in our four-game win streak."

Drew also made a statement in the release.

"After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I have decided it's in my best interest to continue my education and basketball career elsewhere," he said. "I have enjoyed my time in North Carolina and appreciate the support of everyone associated with the program. Over the last three years, we've accomplished a lot as a team and those experiences will help me not only on the court, but off the court as well."

Drew had given no indication to anyone that he wasn't happy after being replaced as the starting point guard four games ago by freshman Kendall Marshall. In fact, Drew has performed much better in a reserve role, averaging four points with 19 assists and just four turnovers. Before the switch, Drew had 63 assists against 34 turnovers in 17 games.

In an exclusive interview with Fox Sports on Thursday, Marshall said his relationship with Drew hadn't been affected by the change.

"There was no friction between me and Larry," Marshall said. "He has helped me with the transition, teaching me things as we go along."

Marshall went on to discuss in more detail how supportive Drew had been.

"He's been around the block twice already," Marshall said. "He knows what it's like to play against these teams, so he's given me tips before games about the opposing point guards. And it's been great for him, he's starting to play really, really well, and maybe take some pressure off of him."

The pressure on Drew began at the beginning of last season. His play was inconsistent and UNC lost some games its fans felt the Tar Heels should have won. As a result, criticism of Drew became common in the Internet and radio talk shows. And by the time UNC finished with a surprising 5-11 ACC record, Drew was the target of most fans' angst.

But he returned for his junior campaign and was expected to perform well after a respectable run in the NIT last March, where he played some of his best basketball. But UNC again got off to a slow start, and the wrath was on Drew for the struggles.

It didn't help his cause that Marshall played exceptionally well, and other than a few games late in November, Marshall was clearly outplaying Drew. Marshall knows Drew heard it all over campus, because he couldn't escape hearing about a call for a change, as well.

"I was obviously aware of it," Marshall said. "People coming up to you saying something about it, facebook and things like that, people make comments about it."

But Marshall said it never affected his relationship with Drew, which was key in the freshman's continued development once Williams made the switch.

"Not at all," he said. "We're both here for the same reason