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Tar Heels Lose a Magnificent Seven

Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page D02

An unprecedented exodus of stars has dismantled North Carolina's basketball team less than three weeks after it won the national championship.

Underclassmen Raymond Felton, Sean May and Marvin Williams yesterday joined junior Rashad McCants by announcing their intentions to enter the NBA draft. All are in the process of hiring agents, a move that will eliminate the option of returning to school.

M. Williams
M. Williams
North Carolina freshman Marvin Williams announces his intention to enter the NBA Draft. Williams is one of seven Tar Heels to leave school after winning the National Championship. (Gerry Broome - AP)

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The Tar Heels also will lose seniors Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel and Melvin Scott, which means Coach Roy Williams will be without his top seven scorers.

"It's easier to be sitting up here after we just won a national championship," Roy Williams said at a news conference. "But it would have been worth it if we had not won. I know that might sound corny and everything, but I loved coaching these three youngsters."

Juniors Felton and May could be lottery selections in June's draft.

Freshman Marvin Williams, who was the team's sixth man, is expected to be among the first three picks. And McCants is viewed as a potential late-first round selection.

May said he always envisioned himself as a four-year college player, but his stock rose significantly during the NCAA tournament, which culminated with May being named the Final Four's most outstanding player on his 21st birthday.

If there's a chance to be a top 15 pick," May said, "that's something I just can't turn down."

North Carolina must replace all of its starters and more than 90 percent of its scoring production. Some of that responsibility will fall to talented incoming freshmen such as Tyler Hansbrough, a 6-foot-9 big man, and Bobby Frasor, a 6-3 guard. The Tar Heels' leading returning scorer will be forward David Noel, who averaged 3.9 points.

Roy Williams said it is a "hard" day to be the coach of a program losing all of its talent, but it is a "great" day to be the coach of three players who will fulfill a lifelong dream. "If the program were devastated, I'd be leaving with them," Williams said. "We're still going to show up on game night. That's the attitude I am going to have."

-- Eric Prisbell

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