CHAPEL HILL — Four days after P.J. Hairston announced that he would remain at North Carolina, the Tar Heels on Tuesday learned the future, finally, of their other two best players.
Reggie Bullock, the junior guard, announced that he would leave school to enter the NBA draft. About nine hours later, James Michael McAdoo, the sophomore forward, announced that he would return to school.
Neither revelation was particularly surprising. Bullock grew up amid meager means in a rough Kinston neighborhood and long dreamed of pursuing a professional career in part because of a desire to support his family. McAdoo, meanwhile, likely believed he could improve significantly after an inconsistent sophomore season.
With the return of Hairston and McAdoo, UNC will be bringing back both its leading scorer and most prolific perimeter player (Hairston) , and its most experienced, productive frontcourt player (McAdoo). Both Hairston and McAdoo, who arrived together at UNC in the summer of 2011, will be expected to play leading roles for the Heels next season.
The loss of Bullock, though, is a blow. UNC coach Roy Williams in a statement described Bullock as UNCs most consistent player last season. He averaged 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds this past season. He also made a career-high 43.6 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Its been a great experience at Carolina and after talking to my family, the coaches and my inner circle of friends, I am ready to take the next step in my career, Bullock said in a statement. I want to play at the next level and will put my name in the NBA draft this year.
In addition to his perimeter shooting, Bullock was known for his defense and rebounding. He was often the Tar Heels best rebounder after they began using a four-guard starting lineup in mid-February.
Our hope is that his decision will work out in a very positive manner for Reggie, Williams said. He has big dreams and we will help him and support him in his efforts to reach those dreams. Ill always enjoy reflecting on Reggies three seasons as a big part of our program.
Williams recently had expressed optimism that Bullock, Hairston and McAdoo might all return. But Williams will have to settle, instead, for the next-best scenario: returning two out of the three.
The return of Hairston and McAdoo, along with that of freshman point guard Marcus Paige and senior sixth man Leslie McDonald, an adept shooter, gives the Tar Heels an enviable nucleus for the 2013-14 season. UNC will also welcome back freshmen forwards Joel James, Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto, and a three-man recruiting class that ranks among the nations best.
Among Bullock, Hairston and McAdoo, Bullock likely had the least to gain from returning to school. He is projected by DraftExpress.com as a late first-round selection.
Hairston and McAdoo, meanwhile, could improve their draft prospects with stronger, more complete seasons. Hairston, who made nearly 40 percent of his 3-point attempts last season, averaged 18.2 points per game after he entered the starting lineup in mid-February. Inconsistency and a difficulty to generate offense on the interior plagued the 6-foot-9 McAdoo, who averaged 14.4 points despite shooting 44.5 percent from the field.
Its unclear what role, if any, Bullocks departure might play in the recruitment of Andrew Wiggins, who is considered by many to be the top prospect in the class of 2013.
College basketballs late signing period begins Wednesday and ends May 15. Wiggins will decide among UNC, Florida State, Kansas and Kentucky, and hes offered little clues as to which of those schools might be his favorite.
It wasnt that long ago that Bullock was a top-rated recruit who arrived at UNC as part of a celebrated recruiting class. Bullock came in with Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall, both of whom are in the NBA. Marshall in a post on Twitter congratulated Bullock on Tuesday, and said hed been waiting for him.
John Henson, another of Bullocks former teammates, also congratulated Bullock. He wrote back, thanking Henson for the words, and then he later thanked Williams and others for the past three years.
I want to thank all of my coaches, teammates and the Carolina fans for their support these past three years, Bullock said in his statement We did some great things that have prepared me to play in the NBA. I know the Tar Heels will have a great year next season.
If that turns out to be true it will be because the two players Bullock left behind Hairston and McAdoo delivered after deciding to stay.
Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter