The sudden transfer of junior Larry Drew II last week not only leaves North Carolina thin at point guard this season - but scrambling to add another ballhandler for next season, as well.
And it's not going to be easy to find one.
"In terms of what's on the board right now, I just don't see any recruitable guys for them at that spot at this stage in the game [for the class of 2011]," ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep said.
Kendall Marshall - who took over the starting slot for Drew on Jan. 18 - is only a freshman, and his additional minutes this season should help him improve for seasons to come. Problem is, his backup, sophomore Dexter Strickland, is a more of a shooting guard. And if either one of them gets hurt (this season or next), it's unclear who could handle the ball.
"This Larry Drew fiasco has just left them, as Roy Williams said in his quote, he was 'blindsided,' " All-Star Sports analyst Bob Gibbons said. "The way the team played [against Florida State on Sunday], this year it may be good ... but the timing on it is like the Wear twins [who transferred in May]. They [UNC] didn't know they were going to leave and didn't have an opportunity to replace them."
UNC has three recruits on deck for 2011: power forwards James McAdoo and Jackson Simmons, plus shooting guard P.J. Hairston. It also has a verbal commitment for a point guard, Marcus Paige, for 2012. But unless Paige were to opt to leave Iowa's Linn-Mar High and come to college a year early - a la Duke's Andre Dawkins last season - UNC has to find another ballhandler in time for practice next fall.
One option would be to investigate the junior college ranks, Gibbons said. Another possibility, according to Telep: Wait to see which coaches lose their jobs around the country and which players start looking for another school as a result.
"Guys lose their jobs. It's the best place to look for recruits in the spring,'' Telep said. "It's not pretty, and nobody wants to talk about it, but the fact of the matter is, those kids get let out of their letters of intent. That's where you could possibly pick up a backup point guard. That's your best option."
UNC has had recent experience with getting a last-minute recruit. After David and Travis Wear transferred, the Tar Heels were able to lure forward Justin Knox, a graduate student transfer from Alabama. Knox is averaging six points and four rebounds as a reserve.
"It's interesting," Telep said. "No program is immune to the transfer, but it certainly seems as though the last three transfers that North Carolina has had fall into the category of theater of the bizarre. Because they're all from the same state [California]. They all were playing. And on the outside looking in, I don't think any of the transfers made sense. Everybody has the right to do what they want, but it's just bizarre."
Lowe: Leslie suspension 'just youth'
N.C. State freshman C.J. Leslie will practice with his team today and play for the Wolfpack on Sunday after serving a one-game suspension.
Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe on Monday chalked up Leslie's suspension to "youth" and said the team's leading rebounder handled the disciplinary action "well." Leslie did not play in State's 76-52 loss at Duke on Saturday after violating an unspecified team rule.
"He understood, certainly it hurt him, but he understood," Lowe said during the ACC's weekly coaches' conference call.
Lowe declined to discuss the specifics of the suspension but said it wasn't related to Leslie's attitude.
"It's just youth," Lowe said. "It's growth, maturity and understanding there is structure and discipline and it has to be done."
Lowe gave the team off on Sunday and Monday. The Pack does not have a midweek ACC game and doesn't play again until Sunday's road game at Wake Forest.
Leslie, a McDonald's All-American from Holly Springs, leads the team in rebounding (7.1 per game) and blocked shots (1.5 per game) and is second in scoring (10.7 points per game).
Staff writers Ken Tysiac and J.P. Giglio also contributed to this report.
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