Lawson Moving Forward

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Ty Lawson has heard the speculation surrounding his ankle injury over the past six weeks – that he was protecting himself for a quick jump to the NBA, and that maybe he just lacked the necessary toughness. The sophomore point guard set the record straight on Wednesday afternoon.

Roy Williams opened his weekly press conference with the following statement: "Right now, the plan is to start Ty [on Friday] if practice goes okay tomorrow."

With those words, the fifth-year UNC head coach closed a six-week period of scrutiny and concern surrounding his speedy point guard, as with each passing game that Lawson missed was answered with criticism at every turn. Talk radio and message boards were flooded with people trying to find a hidden meaning in the sophomore's absence, beyond the simple fact that he was overcoming an ankle sprain.

Never mind that Lawson has never had to deal with an injury of that severity in his playing career. He indicated on Wednesday that the only time he could remember missing time was during his freshman year in high school when he missed two weeks after breaking a finger.

Williams was even asked three weeks ago during his weekly ACC teleconference call if Lawson's slow return was due to the Clinton, Md. product's desire to protect himself for the NBA.

"I don't think that is a factor at all…," Williams responded. "We have not discussed it, and I don't think it's been in Ty's mind one second about something that he's trying to protect himself [against]. I think he wants to help the Tar Heels win, and frankly, if I had a player that I thought [that way], then I could keep him out a heck of a lot longer and could make him really be healthy."

Lawson confirmed on Wednesday that he had heard those rumors.

"For people to think that, I think is outrageous," said Lawson, who added that his ankle is slowly getting back to 100 percent. "I love playing basketball. I always want to be out there and play every game, so I heard little things like that, but I just didn't pay [any] attention."

He first heard about those statements while reading an Internet message board.

"Somebody was like, ‘He's trying to preserve himself for the NBA – he's had two good games, 20 assists to one turnover,'" Lawson said. "I read it and I was kind of upset about that… I'm a player. I like to play. I'm really competitive, so that's not what I'm about at all."

The long layoff had more to do with the sophomore learning how to test his ankle properly. Having not dealt with that type of injury before, Lawson admitted to pushing himself too hard at times and doing more harm than good to his ankle during the recovery process.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder is ready to move past the injury and focus on the task at hand – winning the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. He confirmed that the NBA is currently out of his mind.

"Right now it is, because I'm trying to win a NCAA Championship," Lawson said. "Not too many people can do that. [There are] people in the NBA that don't have NCAA Championships, so that's my No. 1 goal. It's one thing I've wanted since I was little."

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