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February 5, 2011

Parental misguidance

One certainty to Larry Drew's departure from Carolina is UNC does not have to worry that an agent or runner paid Drew in hopes of getting a slice of a future NBA paycheck.

The only way Drew will play in the National Basketball Association is if his father, Larry I, adds him to the roster of the Atlanta Hawks.

Considering he pushed his son to leave Carolina because the kid lost his starting job, my concern would be for the man's judgment if I owned the Hawks. Drew is Atlanta's head coach.

Drew II has now become the poster child for the effects of unrealistic and obsessed parents.

Whether is it is the 5- and 6-year-old beginner league or one of college basketball's elite programs, the presence of obnoxious parents living vicariously through their kids is an ugly part of sports' underbelly.

Not all parents are this way. Parents rightfully want to see their children succeed, but there are always a few who have lost touch with reality.

The deeper issue in this story exceeds what happened at Carolina.

After UNC coach Roy Williams switched Kendall Marshall to the starter at point guard and Drew to come off the bench instead, Drew looked as if he were having fun playing basketball for one of the few times of his career at Carolina.

The pressure to be a star seemed to squeeze the breath from Drew until now. He finally began to show the skills Williams saw when he recruited Drew when he came off the bench.

Following Ty Lawson at Carolina was going to be hard enough, but trying to emulate a father who played in the NBA has obviously been far more difficult.

Meanwhile, Drew's mom has become known within the culture of the Internet message boards for her rants about her "gifted" son and all the ignorant people who do not see what she does.

She envisions a superstar bound for the NBA.

Most others saw was a point guard who took a high-octane offense and transformed it into that pickup truck puttering along at 25 miles per hour on a rural Southern road with a dog perched over the passenger-side dash.

The game is supposed to be played north to south, but for some reason Drew usually traveled east to west. Maybe subconsciously he has been trying to return to California from the start.

The worst part is the nagging feeling that Drew would have been happy had his parents left him alone to work out his status on the team for himself. He appeared to relish the challenge, and he certainly was helping the Tar Heels.

Now, instead, he will be remembered for quitting in midstream.

By the way, I wonder what will happen the next time Larry I has to bench one of his players who is underperforming?

Another part of this story is Drew will not earn a degree from Carolina, which would have served him more in the long run than basketball ever will.

Williams will probably continue to anguish about what he could have done to avert the situation. He shouldn't. The only way this could have been avoided would be if Williams had never recruited Drew.

Once Larry II hit the bench, the timer was engaged on the bomb.

Carolina can continue to improve and play winning basketball in the aftermath of this episode. It really should not be devastating.

Drew's absence presents a huge opportunity for Dexter Strickland. He will get more time at point guard. Strickland was never going to make it in the NBA as a shooting guard. He lacks the size, and he doesn't shoot consistently enough.

But he has raw speed, and if he can translate that into becoming an effective point guard, he may earn a pro paycheck.

Leslie McDonald should get more minutes as Strickland switches to play the point. McDonald is an outstanding athlete whose potential far exceeds what he has accomplished so far. And unlike Drew, McDonald did not cut and run when he struggled to adjust to the collegiate game.

He reacted as one would hope for all competitors: He worked harder to mature as a player and a person.

Freshman Reggie Bullock should also benefit from added playing time. His upside is tremendous, so more of him should only help the Tar Heels.

Carolina basketball has always been about the name on the front of the jersey, not the one stitched across the back.

On Friday, Drew II and his family sent a message to the rest of the team that they are not good enough for him. He mattered more than the whole. If I were on this team, my goal would be to prove Drew wrong by playing harder, smarter and better than ever in order to show the world what Carolina basketball is really all about.

Heck, go on to win the national championship and wave to Larry as the confetti rains down on a real team.


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