Legacies are secure for Lawson, Tar Heels

College Basketball

April 08, 2009|By David Teel | David Teel,Tribune Newspapers

DETROIT -Ty Lawson had quite a month. His toe injury panicked thousands. His casino winnings appalled the pious.

But nothing could match his Monday.

"Never in a million years," he said, "would I think I'd get the Point Guard of the Year and win the national championship."

Lawson collected the personal hardware, the Cousy Award, in late morning. Come prime time, he tormented Michigan State and led North Carolina to its fifth NCAA men's basketball title.

Neither distinction is debatable. The Tar Heels' supremacy and Lawson's talents were never more evident than in their 89-72 conquest of the Spartans at Ford Field.

But as Monday night became Tuesday morning, talk turned to legacies and the future - those of Lawson, his teammates and their program.

Start with Lawson and Wayne Ellington, his running mate at guard. Both are juniors, and their return to campus next season would make the Tar Heels - they have four acclaimed recruits on the way - a legitimate threat to repeat.

Neither bit on the question amid the celebration. But in returning for their junior seasons, Lawson and Ellington had two goals: win the national championship and cement themselves as first-round NBA draft picks.

Check and check.

Ellington evolved from a one-dimensional, spot-up shooter to a versatile scorer. His 39 points and 8-for-10 shooting from three-point range in the Final Four won him the event's award as the Most Outstanding Player.

Lawson overcame the late-season toe ailment that sent fans into a lather, won $250 shooting craps at a Detroit casino, set an Atlantic Coast Conference standard for assist-to-turnover ratio (3.5-1) and silenced those who claimed he couldn't defend. His six assists and Final Four-record eight steals Monday overshadowed his game-high 21 points.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wouldn't argue with Lawson's being the Most Outstanding Player, considering that in two drubbings of the Spartans this season, Lawson had 38 points, 15 steals, 14 assists and one turnover.

"When you play a Connecticut, there's some people you can cheat off of, there's something you can do," Izzo said. "When you play North Carolina, there's nothing you can do. And I think Lawson says it all. ... He does stir the drink."

While Lawson and Ellington appear ticketed for the NBA, Carolina freshman Ed Davis vowed Monday to continue his college career.

A 6-foot-10 left-hander from Richmond, Davis might have more NBA upside than any other Tar Heel. But he weighs only 215 pounds and has never played more than 28 minutes in a college game.

In a 14-minute cameo Monday, Davis contributed 11 points and eight rebounds. He, Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson combined for 38 points and 18 boards in the low post and overwhelmed Michigan State.

Hansbrough, a three-time first-team All-American, departs as North Carolina's career leader in points and rebounds, and the No. 4 scorer in NCAA tournament history.

"Staying in school was the best decision I ever made in my life," he said.

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