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Legacies and Accomplishments

Are in the eye of the beholder I guess.

Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall and John Henson on Thursday did what many Americans in this country do every day. They made the decision to do what's best for them and their family by entering their names in the NBA Draft. Of course if any of us resign from our job to take a better one, or move from one city to the next because its best for our family no one holds that against us. However both pro and college athletes alike are expected be loyal to their school or team above themselves and their family. That is a level of selflessness most of us would not demand of ourselves yet it is demanded of athletes on a regular basis.

In this case, the pill of these three leaving is made tougher to swallow because it did not come after a national championship or at least some predetermined level of acceptable accomplishment such as the Final Four. Phrases like "no accomplishments" "underachieving" and "quitting" are tossed around by spoiled fans who apparently believe 61 wins, two ACC regular season titles and two Elite Eight appearances is something to sneeze at. Never mind the team everyone assumed would challenge for the national championship lost three guards to ACL and wrist injuries while Henson played at half strength with a sprained wrist in his final three games. The notion that a team could underachieve when players vital to its success were unable to play is asinine on so many levels I scarcely know where to begin. That is not nearly as ridiculous as the idea that we the fans are somehow entitled to have these players put aside their dreams just to correct the perceived injustice of not living up to our expectations. In doing so they would assume the risk of losing the opportunity set before them, something none of would do if the role was reversed.

The criticism doesn't stop with team accomplishments but bleeds over into how these individuals might be viewed. In this respect Marshall and Henson get a pass since both met or exceeded the expectations placed on them. Henson was a two time ACC DPOY and Marshall set numerous assist records. Both were likable for their personalities and the way they played the game. Barnes on the other hand seems to be catching the most flak in this area since he had the temerity to show up with some preconceived vision of how he wanted his college career to go. He called his home run shot and ended up hitting a double. For that he is eternally damned as being the second coming of Joe Forte or whatever. Sure Barnes made mistakes. He did get ahead of himself by focusing on his own "brand" and complicated the matter by actually discussing it openly, then playing poorly after the fact.

That doesn't make Barnes a bad player nor can his accomplishments be easily overlooked. Barnes was the ACC Rookie of the Year and second team All-ACC as a freshman. During that season he hit several clutch shots including a game winner at Florida State. He struggled at times but ended up playing very well down the stretch helping UNC win the ACC regular season title and reach the Elite Eight. As a sophomore, greater things were expected of him but didn't quite pan out like we and I am sure he thought it would. Still, averaging 17 points and five rebounds per game was solid enough work to earn first team All-ACC honors. Barnes didn't do the things he set out to do nor did he live up to the hype surrounding him. It happens sometimes, but in this case  Barnes' perceived failure is being spun that he owes the fans something. It is like he's supposed to come back for the express purpose of living up to the hype because, doggone it, we are entitled to it!

Except we're not. These guys don't owe us a darn thing. In fact they gave us plenty already in great memories, two ACC regular season titles, two ACC regular season clinching wins over Duke, trips to the Elite Eight and all of the fun of watching them be Tar Heels even if it wasn't for four years. Did they do everything we wanted or expected them to do? No and in the end some of that was completely outside of their control. There are some hard truths here that for some reason we, as adults, still can't grasp. The first is you don't always get what you want and more often than not crap happens that keeps our favorite team from winning a national title. The other is college basketball has reached a point where there is only so much loyalty we can extract from players before their own self interest takes over. In fact, the decision to even come to UNC is driven by the need to propel their careers forward rather than any loyalty to the Old Well or even Roy Williams. It is the nature of the system now, whether we like it or not and we shouldn't begrudge them for making the most of the opportunities afforded them.

In an ideal world these three would all come back to take another shot at a national title. It happened in 2007 and again in 2008, which led to one of the greatest three year runs in UNC basketball history. It happened last year, as the entire frontline could have easily walked out the door but returned to pursue a national title. UNC has been very fortunate in this regard and the NBA attrition, while it exists, has been kinder that not during the Roy Williams era. In this instance, it didn't work out and these three have decided that it is their time to move on. All I can say is "good for them, tear it up, and make us proud."

Anything else comes off as selfish fan whining and this trio deserves better than that.