"They have to make the decision on the 27th [of April], and they'll make a decision before that, but we're not finished with the process right now," Williams said.
While rumors and sources are fueling fans' anxiety and heightening their blood pressure, it's clear that not even their teammates are positive what direction the triumvirate is leaning.
"I don't know – I really don't know," said Marcus Ginyard, who jokingly announced to reporters his intentions to return to North Carolina for his senior season. "I don't want to know honestly, but I'm just hoping that everybody comes back. I'm sure that these guys are really thinking hard about their decision."
Hansbrough and Lawson both announced their intentions to return to UNC during the 2007 banquet last April, leading to speculation that they would follow the same route on Thursday and make some sort of statement – one way or the other – about their future in a Tar Heel uniform.
One reason that Williams pointed out for the news delay was the fact that his team played a week longer this season than in 2006-07, as well as the extra time involved in gathering information on three players instead of just one (Brandan Wright entered the NBA draft after his freshman season last April).
Underclassmen have until April 27 to enter their names into the NBA Draft; if they don't hire an agent, they have until June 16 to withdraw.
But North Carolina has never had a player to test the professional waters during Williams' tenure, and the coach believes there is a legitimate reason for that.
"I think that if we do it the right way, we're going to get a lot of information," said Williams, who added that he's never been surprised by a player's decision. "I don't know if you can gain much more by ‘testing the waters.' By the end of the day tomorrow, I will have had direct contact through the [NBA's Undergraduate Advisory Committee] or face-to-face or on the phone with 18 different NBA teams. So I feel pretty secure in what we're doing."
There are various reasons for any of the players to stay or to go pro, especially considering none of the three are locks as a lottery pick. The chance to win a national championship, as well as seeing the multitude of underclassmen around the country declare for the draft, would seem to provide the trio with reason to return, but in the end, the decision is a personal one.
"I think you make a decision on what you think is best for you [and] best for your family," Williams said. "Are you ready? Is it something you want to do? And I think it really is a three-part method to go through."
North Carolina did not provide media access to any of the three players following the awards banquet, for obvious reasons. Hansbrough was peppered with NBA inquiries while receiving a variety of National Player of the Year awards in San Antonio last week, so the barrage of questions would have only increased in scope on Thursday.
"I'm sure the biggest thing is just the fact that everybody on campus and everybody they know wants to ask them what they're doing," Ginyard said. "I'm sure that's just the biggest thing that they're dealing with right now, let alone the obvious decision that they have to make. So I'm just hoping that people give them their space, give them their time and let them and their families make the right decision for them."