LOS ANGELES — The bottom continued to drop out of what was already a weak June 23 draft when Harrison Barnes announced Monday he would return to North Carolina for his sophomore season, the second top-five pick and fourth probable lottery choice to stay in school.
Barnes, along with Derrick Williams, would have been under consideration for the No. 1 pick if the team that wins the May 17 lottery is set at point guard and has no pressing need for Kyrie Irving. Instead, Barnes’ swerving season that began with a good chance at going first and detoured into a disappointing start before finally reclaiming his original promise, ends with a decision to remain a Tar Heel.
“As a team, we’re preparing for a special season,” he said in a statement released by the school. “My offseason plans are to diligently work on honing my basketball skills in all areas with one team-goal in mind – to bring the 2012 national championship home to UNC.”
John Henson, a possible lottery pick, had previously said he would return to North Carolina.
Barnes and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger were both projected to be picked in the top five, and perhaps the top three. Perry Jones was headed for the top 10 before choosing to stay at Baylor another season. Henson was a fourth lottery candidate, creating the chance for several prospects who would have been destined for the late-teens to move into lottery money.
Underclassmen must declare for the draft by Sunday. They can withdraw by May 8 and retain college eligibility.