Drew Looking Forward

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Two months removed from his sophomore season, Larry Drew is focused on the future.

"To be honest, I haven't really been looking back on last year," Drew said this week amid the sounds of Smith Center construction work echoing around the concourse. "I've just been trying to look ahead to next year."

Which is understandable, as there's not much new that can be said about North Carolina's disappointing, if not baffling, 2009-10 campaign. The 17 losses and a 10th place conference finish frustrated the UNC fan base, and many of those looking for a scapegoat pointed their finger at the starting point guard.

Drew's 8.5 points and 6.0 assists (tied for 2nd in the ACC) last season looked good upon first glance, but he also averaged the second most turnovers in the conference and drew criticism for not consistently being the poised leader that the struggling Tar Heel offense needed.

"I heard it," Drew said of the criticism. "We all know last year was a rough year and it comes with it."

It's worth noting that there's no bitterness in his voice when discussing the disparaging remarks that were directed his way from fans and fellow students alike. Drew maintains an even keel and is not one for excuses. He openly recognizes the yearly expectations that come with Carolina Basketball and makes no attempt to justify that the team's performance, nor his own, was acceptable.

If he had wanted to make excuses, he had opportunities. Noting two heavily taped fingers on his right hand during the middle of the ACC, this author asked Drew on multiple postgame occasions for details on the injury, only to be told that it was nothing of significance. It was only after direct questions during this offseason interview that Drew was willing to discuss the injury.

"I think both of them happened in practice," he recalled. "I remember I hurt it (in practice), and I didn't tell anybody because I'm used to having my fingers jammed so it's no big deal, but then the next day (Jan. 30) in practice it happened again – the exact same spot, the exact same play – so I figured I had to tell the trainer."

According to the UNC training staff, Drew severely sprained the index and middle finger on his right hand, which included a bone chip in his middle finger.

There was a seemingly endless list of minor and major injuries Roy Williams discussed in press conferences last season, but Drew's ailment was not among them.

Perhaps it's because no one asked the head coach directly or it wasn't deemed significant enough (the season-high four three-pointers Drew hit the next day against Virginia would assist in that line of thinking). Or maybe it's because Drew preferred it that way.

"I didn't really want to put it out there like that because I didn't really think it was that big of a deal," he said. "People play with hand injuries all the time. You look at guys like Kobe (Bryant), who plays with broken fingers – he doesn't want people to look at that as an excuse."

Drew's focus this summer includes improving specific aspects of his game, but most of all Roy Williams told him that he just wants him to play as much as possible, furthering the confidence gained during the NIT run, be it in pickup games or open gyms.

The staff's preference is that Drew does this solely in Chapel Hill, but as was the case last summer, Drew indicated that he will be returning home to California to train with his father, rather than attending UNC's second summer session.

"Yeah, they do (prefer that I stay in Chapel Hill for the second summer session), but they understand at the same time," Drew said of the Tar Heel coaches. "I am privileged to have a father who has been in the league for as long as he has. He's going to be right there with me the whole time. He taught me the game and he's been there with me in basketball since before I can remember."

Drew's father, Larry Sr., played for a decade in the NBA and has since been an assistant coach in the league for 17 seasons. As of this week he's one of three finalists for Atlanta's vacant head coaching position.

"It's something I want to take advantage of because I don't get to see him much during the season or during the year," Drew continued. "I'm just really looking forward to spending some time with him and picking his brain. I've still got all my game tapes from last year, too, so one thing we're going to do a lot this summer is watch all my game films and break them down."

When Drew returns to campus in August, he will do so as an upperclassman, with the added responsibilities of team leadership and the role of mentoring the freshmen, especially incoming point guard Kendall Marshall.

"He's a cool kid," Drew said of Marshall, noting their similarities in style of play. "I'm looking forward to playing with him and being around him."

Drew's return for his junior season itself was a surprise to some, considering the transfer rumors that followed him during the final months of last season. To that, he now offers a chuckle.

"They were worrying about the wrong one."

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