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Credit Where Credit Is Due, Part II

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The players.

When Danny Green, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington decided to return last June the one aspect of the situation talked about besides UNC being a favorite to win it all was the team vs individual glory problem.  The concern, which was a real one on the surface, was that three guys who returned because their NBA stock was not high enough would make it their goal to increase their stock by doing things detrimental to the team. I actually never really bought that, for a couple of reasons.  The first was based primarily on the spoils of winning a national title and looking good doing it.  If these three played well within the team, showed good chemistry and ended up winning the title then they would enjoy positive feedback from NBA scouts.  Hunting one's shot and generally being a malcontent is not the way to the lottery.

Secondly, Roy Williams sat all of them down and made it abundantly clear that it was UNC first, them second and anything else was not of great interest to him. Every indication is the players accepted this condition.  After watching them play the full season I cannot point to a single moment I thought any one of them put themselves ahead of the team for the purposes of raising their NBA stock.  One of the reasons is UNC's style of play allows them to all get shots.  When you are scoring 90 ppg everyone is going to score and most likely score bunches at the same time. Roy Williams' offensive system is a opportune one for a player looking to burnish their NBA credentials within a team concept.  At this point you can certainly say it worked well for both Lawson and Ellington.

The media loves to talk about how players "returned to win a national title."  That was not the case here.  Roy has even said so.  These guys came back because their NBA Draft stock was lower than they wanted and the only choice they had was one more season in Chapel Hill.  A national title was never really a factor in making the decision to return for these three and for Tyler Hansbrough is was only a part of the equation.  However, once the decision was made, these four players along with the rest of the team made winning a national title their only business this season.  To their credit they set aside whatever personal agendas or goals they may have had and came together as a team.

Also to their credit this team dealt with the stress of being expected to win the title.  They dealt with the adversity of three starters being injured at given points in the season.  Lawson dealt with the media leaving him for dead after the 0-2 ACC start only to come back and win ACC POY,  Lawson also played six games with an injured toe that illustrated a toughness most had decided he never had. Ellington shook off a streak of bad shooting early in the season to play the last three plus months of the season as well as any UNC wing guard has played.  Danny Green stepped up into the starter's role with the loss of Marcus Ginyard and played exceptionally well on both ends of the floor hitting threes and blocking shots.  Tyler Hansbrough dealt with the initial injury and the fact he was basically being hammered on the court.  Hansbrough also became much more a part of the team offense versus being the focus of it.  Add to this the toughness shown by Deon Thompson at times, especially in the NCAA title game, despite clamoring for him to be on the bench.  You had Bobby Frasor doing what he could to contribute and finding his shot during at least two crucial game stretchs despite struggling to shoot all season long.

All of these guys, at some point this season, had to reach down inside and find a toughness the media has largely condemned them for not having.  As individuals they overcame personal injuries and streaks of poor play.  As a team they bounced back from an 0-2 ACC start and a poor showing versus Maryland to prove ultimately prove the doubters wrong.  It was a phenomenal season as much for the journey as it was for actually winning the title.  We all got what we expected in terms of the way they played.  What we did not know was whether they could still play at the level given varying degrees of adversity.  The answer was they could and that deserves its own recognition.