April 23, 2009

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina juniors Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington will enter the NBA draft, ending their college careers a few weeks after leading the Tar Heels to the national championship.

Lawson and Ellington announced their plans at a news conference Thursday afternoon. Both players declared for the draft last year before ultimately deciding to return to school.

Lawson was a second-team All-American and unseated Tyler Hansbrough as Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year. He was second on the team in scoring at nearly 17 points per game, and closed his career with 21 points and a championship game-record eight steals in the 89-72 win against Michigan State at Ford Field in Detroit.

"It's hard to leave Carolina because of all the great memories and things you learn in college," Lawson said. "All the fun I had with my teammates made it a hard decision. It's just tough leaving here."

Ellington was third in scoring at about 16 points and was named most outstanding player of the Final Four after scoring a combined 39 points against Villanova in the national semifinals and against the Spartans on April 6.

"Winning a championship definitely had a lot to do with it," Ellington said. "There's no better way to go out. It's something that's very hard to achieve and we worked for it."

It's a familiar scenario for North Carolina. After winning coach Roy Williams' first national title in 2005, the Tar Heels lost four underclassmen to the NBA and their top seven scorers overall.

This time, they're losing their top four scorers, with the graduation of Hansbrough - the ACC's career scoring leader and the program's all-time leading rebounder - and Danny Green. Still, things should be a little more settled this time.

Deon Thompson will be back for his senior season after averaging about 11 points per game along with talented big men Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller. North Carolina also expects to have versatile senior Marcus Ginyard, who started every game during the team's Final Four run in 2008 but played just three games this year before opting to redshirt after a slow recovery from foot surgery.

In addition, the Tar Heels add a recruiting class ranked first nationally by Scout.com, which includes the top-ranked power forward in John Henson.