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June 26, 2009

Heels soar in 2008-09

The National Basketball Association draft on Thursday provided an exclamation point to a sports year for Carolina that few schools ever experience.

Four Tar Heels were taken in the draft, with Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington going in the first round. The Cleveland Cavaliers picked Danny Green in the second.

In a testament to the quality of athletes at Carolina, all three main professional sports leagues drafted UNC players in their first rounds this year.

Carolina, Missouri and Southern California are the only schools to have players selected in the first rounds of the 2009 National Football League, Major League Baseball and NBA drafts. UNC wide receiver Hakeem Nicks went 29th to the New York Giants; first baseman Dustin Ackley went second to the Seattle Mariners and pitcher Alex White went 15th to the Cleveland Indians in the MLB draft.

This was the second time in Carolina history (1984) when at least one Tar Heel has been selected in the first round of the NFL, MLB and NBA drafts.

In addition to all the individual recognition, UNC certainly succeeded at the team level in 2008-09.

The women's soccer team won another national championship, which is no small accomplishment in today's game.

The football team took a huge leap forward by returning to a bowl game for the first time since the 2005 season and winning eight games for the first time since 2001. Third-year coach Butch Davis had several players taken in the other rounds of the draft and even more alumni should hear their names called in the coming years as many of the young players on the roster continue to mature.

The basketball program will enter its 100th season this fall, and Coach Roy Williams has managed to take it to greater heights than ever before. The team won its second national championship in five years and appeared in its third Final Four during that stretch.

With all the talent Williams has on hand, and on the way, this would certainly appear to be more a beginning than a peak, too.

Then there is the baseball program, which has never come close to the success of the last four years. Coach Mike Fox and his guys just participated in their fourth consecutive College World Series, in addition to producing a string of All-Americans and draft choices.

What is happening at Carolina right now is something truly special, and the fans really should be careful not to take any of this success for granted. All one has to do is think back to 2002 and 2003 to recall far different times in the two big marquee sports of football and basketball.

But as long as coaches such as Anson Dorrance, Williams, Davis and Fox are here to recruit and teach, there is every reason to believe UNC can continue to be uniquely successful for the near future.


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