UNC forward Wright to enter NBA draft

Updated: April 24, 2007, 9:38 AM ET
Associated Press

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Brandan Wright enjoyed playing for Roy Williams and knew North Carolina could contend for a national championship next season. He just couldn't pass on the chance to take care of his family by entering the NBA draft.

Ford: Perfect 10
 Chad Ford
Brandan Wright's decision gives yet another big boost to this year's draft; all 10 of the projected Top 10 picks in our Top 100 have declared, Chad Ford writes. Blog Insider

"I was definitely torn in my decision," the freshman said Monday during a news conference. "There are so many positives and negatives in me entering the draft. But I feel like the positives outweigh the negatives."

The 6-foot-9 forward's decision didn't come as a big surprise considering he is projected to be a high pick. And while Wright said he doesn't intend to sign with an agent yet -- a move that would keep open the possibility of a return to school next year -- Williams said the 19-year-old was almost certain to remain in the draft.

"I think the decision is 99.99 [percent] that this is what he's going to do," Williams said. "It's not that he's trying to get more research or anything like that."

Wright joined All-American Tyler Hansbrough on a dominating front line for the Tar Heels (31-7), who lost to Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament's round of eight. With his long, lean frame and soft touch around the basket, Wright ranked second on the team at 14.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

He also shot 64.6 percent, leading the Atlantic Coast Conference while setting the league's freshman record. He was the ACC rookie of the year -- the third straight season a Tar Heel won the award -- and was honored as most valuable player of the league tournament for helping North Carolina win its first title in nine years.

Williams said his research determined that Wright was a sure top 10 pick who could reach as high as third. But considering he weighs just 205 pounds, Wright knows he'll have to bulk up to get ready for the NBA.

"Personally I feel like I can come to a team and do a lot of good things," he said. "I'm going to work like crazy this summer to get ready for the rigors of a long 82-game season. I feel like I'll be ready next year. It should be fun."

Wright becomes the 15th player to leave the program early for the NBA draft, joining notable names like James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Jerry Stackhouse and Vince Carter. But unlike two years ago -- when the Tar Heels lost four underclassmen after winning the national championship -- North Carolina is losing just one.

Hansbrough, the team's scoring and rebounding leader, announced earlier this month that he'd return for his junior season. In addition, point guard Ty Lawson and wing guard Wayne Ellington said they'd return for their sophomore seasons, meaning the Tar Heels will have six of their top eight scorers back next season.

The biggest uncertainty could be how well rising sophomores Deon Thompson (6-8, 245 pounds) and Alex Stepheson (6-9, 225) fill the void from Wright's departure.

"There's definitely a little bit of pressure because he provided so much for the team," Stepheson said. "It's on the big guys to step into that role and do what he did."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE