(Gerry Broome / AP)

Harrison Barnes, the North Carolina forward who was the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year, is returning to school for his sophomore season.

Probably not a bad idea, given the uncertainty over whether there’ll even be an NBA season. His return means that North Carolina’s core three will be intact. Tyler Zeller, a junior, and John Henson, a sophomore, both will return to the school.

“As an 18-year old, I'm in the early stages of my life journey,” Barnes, a 6-8 swingman who would have been a lottery lock and possibly the No. 1 pick (Kyrie Irving? Derrick Williams?), said in a statement released by the university. “I’m honored and blessed for the chance to play in the NBA. And because of my family, teachers, passion, and work, I have the ultimate dream of one day playing and experiencing a fulfilling career in the NBA.

“Opportunities, both beneficial and life changing, can seem to make the next phase of my journey an easy decision. But I am a student-athlete at the University of North Carolina. I'm here to experience college life, grow as a person, receive a quality education, and be part of the greatest basketball family in college sports.

“The experiences I've enjoyed on and off the court will be invaluable. These experiences will help fuel my journey in the NBA and beyond.

“I look forward to meeting the challenging journey in the NBA, but my decision on November 13, 2009, still holds true. I'm focused on being a student-athlete. And my decision is to continue this part of my journey at the University of North Carolina.

“As a team, we're preparing for a special season. My off-season plans are to diligently work on honing my basketball skills in all areas with one team-goal in mind -- to bring the 2012 national championship home to UNC.”

Coach Roy Williams, as you might expect, is delighted. Duh.

“I am of course excited to have Harrison back on our team next year,” he said in, you a guessed it, a statement released by the school. “It has been a true pleasure to coach him and I look forward to coaching him again next season. He had a difficult decision to make. He really had no wrong decision to choose, but I believe he is coming back to school because he enjoys college basketball, he enjoys the University of North Carolina and he enjoys his teammates. If he had decided to leave for the NBA, that would have been okay, too, because he will always be a Tar Heel. But it will certainly be a lot of fun to coach him again.”