1,205 Days

UPDATE: North Carolina won 79-71 on Sunday afternoon, and let me stress the importance of how I worded that.  North Carolina won the game.  Not Tyler, Not Lawson, Not Danny, Not Ellington, Not any ONE player.  The North Carolina Men’s Basketball team won the game.  Coach Williams sent all 7 seniors and Ty Lawson (who was questionable going into the game after a toe injury in practice) out on the court in advance of the tip but advised the referees to wave off the Biscuit Crew prior to the actual tip.  It was the best way to do it.  Start the scholarship seniors and Ty Lawson but send them all out there to act like there would be 8 UNC players for the tip…perfect.  If you’re interested, you can watch the senior speeches from after the game here.  If for some reason the link doesn’t automatically start the video, mouse over the Special Features box on the right hand side and select “Senior Night Speeches.”  Jack Wooten made me laugh the hardest followed closely by Bobby Frasor.  Tyler Hansbrough made me cry of course, but only when he started to thank his older brother Greg who recovered from a brain tumor at age 7 and became Tyler’s inspiration to persevere no matter what.  What an incredible journey these guys have all taken us on!

=====

On Sunday, March 8th it will have been 1,205 days since the current North Carolina senior class stepped on the Smith Center court to play the first game of their college careers.  The game was against Gardner-Webb, and North Carolina won 83-80.  These were their stats: 

PLAYER

MIN

FGM-A

FTM-A

OFF

REB

AST

PF

PTS

         

T. Hansbrough, F

28

9-12

3-4

1

4

1

2

21

         

B. Frasor, G

21

1-6

0-1

0

2

7

1

2

         

D. Green, G-F

13

4-6

6-6

1

1

1

1

17

         

M. Copeland, F

2

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

0

         

These guys started out together as a group that was supposed to rebuild a team that had been gutted by a national championship.  They weren’t picked in the preseason top 25.  I’m not even sure they were considered one of the top 100 teams in the country.  The analysts said they’d be lucky to make it to the NIT that season.  I still laugh every time I hear that because not only did they make the NCAA tournament, but they got an at-large bid and a #3 seed.  Granted they promptly lost in the 2nd round to eventual Final Four bound George Mason, but when that season was over, I just smiled because nearly everything people said they couldn’t do, they did.  We all knew they weren’t going to win the ACC title (though they came close, losing to BC in the semifinals).  And, we all knew they weren’t going to win the national championship.  There was just too much of a learning curve for that to happen.  But the Tar Heel faithful among us knew that they at least wouldn’t embarrass the North Carolina name. 

Flash forward to two days from now when these same four guys and three walk-on seniors take the court one last time at the Smith Center.  Think about that.  Really think about that.  Four college basketball players with scholarships to one of the elite basketball programs in the country not only silenced the critics as freshmen, but are graduating together.  Tell me the last time you remember a senior class staying intact for their entire four years and graduating together without anyone leaving early for the NBA.  That may take a while, so I’ll let you get back to me on that one.  But let me say this, we Tar Heel fans are DARN lucky to have experienced 1 day with them much less 1,205 days.

Sunday is special because it’s Senior Night.  On Senior Night at North Carolina (as it is at many college campuses) consists of introductions of the seniors (all of them) with their parents before the game.  The starting lineup for the game will be ALL seniors.  I do not envy Coach having to choose 5 of the 7 to start the game.  If only Marcus Ginyard hadn’t gotten hurt, it would have been a no-brainer…scholarship seniors start, but as is the case here, Coach will have to pick one of three walk-ons to start the game.  After the game, each of the 7 seniors will have an opportunity to address the Smith Center crowd and thank whomever they choose.  It’s usually families, coaches, teammates, and fans who get the thank yous, but it’s really always fun to hear what they have to say after spending 4 years wearing the greatest uniform in college basketball.

I’m writing this entry in advance of the game because I don’t want whatever happens in the game to cloud my feelings for these 7 guys that I have watched become men right before my eyes.  So, let me see if I can get through this without getting any tears in my keyboard. 

The Biscuit Crew (Patrick Moody, JB Tanner, and Jack Wooten):

patrickjbjack

  • Some people call them the mop up crew, bench warmers, walkons.  I call them the Biscuit Crew.  If you watch any amount of Tar Heel basketball games you’ll sometimes hear the announcers say something about free biscuits.  In the Triangle area of Tobacco Road, whenever North Carolina breaks 100 points in a basketball game, the local Bojangles offers 2 sausage biscuits for $1 to the UNC students.  Typically the only time we break 100 in a game is when the game is in hand and Coach sends out the walkons to finish off the clock.  I LOVE it when they get to play, but not for the reason you might think.  It’s not because the game is in hand so Carolina is going to win.  No, it’s because these guys play like the game is NOT in hand and they have to make the game winning shot.  I love that every one of them EARNED the right to wear that jersey.  The college recruiters didn’t come to their high school games to see them and offer a scholarship.  Instead, these guys answered the campus-wide opportunity to walk on to the basketball team.  They started with the JV squad, one of the few left in this country, and worked hard enough to be called on by Coach to sit at the end of the bench and earn biscuits for the rest of their fellow students.  They have the best seats in the house, get to go on all the road trips, which this year included the Maui Invitational, and they got to scrimmage with the President of the United States!  Their greatest contribution may be something we fans never get to see, and that’s practice.  On a weekly basis these guys have mimicked some of the best players in the country and certainly in the ACC in order to prepare their fellow teammates for what they should expect in the game.  I adore them and am constantly amazed by them. 

Mike Copeland:

80157080MW049_Clemson_v_Nor

  • When Mike Copeland smiles, you smile.  There is no way around it.  It’s infectious and fighting it is counter-intuitive.  Mike grew up a die hard Carolina fan and even now after four years his father (also a die hard fan) can’t believe his son is a Carolina basketball player.  Mike gets it.  He understands what a privilege it is to be a scholarship basketball player at UNC.  He may very well have the greatest personality on the entire team.  I can’t imagine whenever he is down on life that he’s ever down too long.  It surprised me earlier in the season when he was hard fouled at NC State and he got up ready to pounced on his assailant.  I knew at that moment that the hard foul had to have been pretty awful because it seems to me that you have to do some pretty terrible things before Mike will get after you.  I’m really going to miss his positive attitude and that smile!

Bobby Frasor:

bobby

  • Yep…that’s Bobby Frasor…jumping into an above ground swimming pool…4 months after tearing his ACL.  Gosh I Love college kids.  The hardest injury I’ve every had to watch of any of these guys (including Tyler breaking his nose) was when Bobby tore his ACL.  It was in a game against Nevada, and Bobby had just made a textbook steal.  On the breakaway, he stepped just wrong enough to tear it.  The minute he went down I knew.  The reason it was so hard is because it was Bobby’s 3rd major injury of his college career.  His freshman season was pretty good.  Then his sophomore season he hurt his foot, which probably never really healed because he later came back and ended up sitting due to soreness in the foot and a bruised hip.  Then, his junior season came the ACL tear.  He is the epitome of never giving up, but the best thing about Bobby is that he is the best TEAMMATE anyone could ask for.  Once he had torn his ACL, he sat faithfully on the bench for every game of the rest of that season and cheered his team on.  During the last few seconds of an overtime game against Clemson, Wayne Ellington hits a game winning three pointer.  Bobby gets so wrapped up in pumping his fist and cheering that he falls right over the bench.  You can see the YouTube video at the bottom of this post.  Bobby is the one in the suit at the end of the bench.  He’ll be in the top left corner when he falls.  He LOVES the game of basketball and someday will probably be a coach.  In fact, I expect in my lifetime that he will be introduced as the head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, and any team that gets him along the way in his coaching career will be truly blessed.  He understands that winning isn’t all about scoring points.  Sure they help, but it’s also about how you keep the other team from scoring points.  He also knows that the extra hustle and that desire that all true competitors have goes a long way to achieving your goals.  On the other hand, his pun-laced humor could use a little work.

Danny Green:

danny

  • Danny may be the most mature student-athlete out there.  Danny had to grow up pretty fast and not by choice.  His father had some legal issues that I won’t go into here out of respect for Danny, and Danny had to learn to be a full on adult right away including paying the family bills (not just his), taking care of his younger sibling, and going through the highs and lows of being a college student without the help of a parent he could call.  I admire him greatly for what he has been through just in the last 4 years personally.  He has weathered the storm that comes with being the 6th man with grace.  He has been the spark off the bench we needed more times than I can count.  His defense has improved incredibly over the last four years to the point that we can count on him to block shots and get in people’s faces.  His footwork…there just are no words.  He has a clear presence about him that tells you he knows not only where he is on the floor, but also where everyone else is.  He will work his behind off for whatever team he ends up on in the NBA because there seems to be no greater joy to him than watching a basketball fly through the net.  He’s also a pretty darn good dancer (see second video below). 

Tyler Hansbrough:

tylertyler2

  • Are there even enough words in the English language to describe how much of my joy of watching Tar Heel basketball games is tied to this guy?  This guy was supposed to be a one or two year guy.  He’s supposed to be traveling around the country with his NBA team right now.  He’s not supposed to be going to Swahili classes and study halls.  I have never…and I mean never…been more proud of a Tar Heel basketball player than the day the University issued Tyler’s statement last spring saying that he was returning for his senior season not just for basketball but to complete his education.  I have asked myself countless times, “what planet is he from?”.  I have marveled in his ability to shake off a double and triple team and still make the shot.  But the greatest thing I have been witness to is his team-first focus.  I watched as he sat out the first ever games of his college career at the beginning of this season due to a shin injury.  There were times it seemed he couldn’t get enough of watching his teammates play.  This kid from Poplar Bluff, MO arrived in Chapel Hill, NC and never looked back.  He has fully immersed himself in the Chapel Hill culture and the North Carolina tradition.  He has been called every name in the book and his own real name has been butchered in ways you can never imagine from Taylor Hansburrow to an apparent connection to a toy manufacturing company when an announcer called him Tyler Hasbro during a game…true story.  You will never out work him.  He will dive for that ball and fight for it to the whistle.  He will work early hours, late hours, whatever hours that he has to to be a better player or the player you think he needs to be.  And really what more could you ask for than a player who is never content with his game.  He is 70 points away from being the greatest scorer in ACC history.  Yes, his jersey will hang from the rafters one day, but I know without a doubt he’d give it all back for another banner to hang there instead. 
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About Leann

Lazy Pancreas Owner. TV/Movie/Theatre Junkie. Sports Fanatic. Peyton Manning Expert. Alabama Graduate. Car Karaoke Performer. Believer In Love. Come along for the ride.

Posted on March 2009, in General. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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