It’s Been A Pleasure
The title you see above are the words that Deon Thompson published on his Twitter feed today in the hours leading up to Senior Night for Carolina Basketball. Every season, I write a post about the graduating seniors from UNC. This season hasn’t been exactly what we expected it to be. It’s been frustrating to say the least, but none of us fans have been as frustrated by it as the players themselves. As I watched the loss column rack up numbers I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years, my heart ached for Marcus Ginyard, Deon Thompson, and Marc Campbell. How could this be their last season, but then I reminded myself that it’s not about one season or one game. It’s about the journey. It’s about the whole story. It’s about the career. And my goodness what a career those three men have had. They’re all National Champions. They’re all back to back ACC tournament champions. Simply put, they’re all Tar Heels.
I could sit here and tell you about each of them. I could tell you about Marcus’s journey. About how he had to give up his real senior year due to injury and watched from the bench as his friends and teammates played for a National Championship, but what you might not have noticed is how much of a cheerleader he was. That when you see pictures of the goofy smiles as the players celebrated in Detroit, Marcus’s smile was the biggest of them all. I don’t think any one of those players could have asked for a better teammate. I could tell you about Marc Campbell who is a Carolina basketball legacy as his father played for the program, too. They’re the only father-son combination to play for the program in 100 years. We haven’t seen much of Marc this season because he’s part of the clean up crew that comes in at the end of blow outs. But, what you don’t know is that the length of his hair has gotten longer and longer every year and that his journey to Chapel Hill was bumpy to say the least. He’s honestly an incredible ball handler and a very, very underrated point guard. He’s a classic example of someone who probably could have started at some other schools in the country but chose to come to UNC because it’s UNC. And then I could tell you about Deon Thompson. The kid who grew up on the entire opposite side of the country and knew absolutely nothing about Carolina basketball before he decided to become part of the tradition. I could tell you about how his game has improved every season because he has put in the time and the hard work. He doesn’t try to be a player that he’s not. He just tries to be Deon, which is pretty fantastic.
Sure, I could tell you all of that, but instead I’m going to let Deon tell you how much the last four years have meant to him. The following is a speech Deon gave at a dinner for Rams Club (booster organization) Donors, so without further adieu, Deon Thompson, in his own words…
I want to reach out to you all and tell you what you have done for me while also saying thank you!
For me growing up in California, I didn’t know very much about Carolina athletics — much less Carolina Basketball. At home, pro basketball is a bigger deal than college basketball, so I knew about James Worthy, because he played for the LA Lakers. And when Roy Williams made his recruiting visit to my home, I knew I wanted him to be my coach. I thought Carolina would be the best possible place for me to get an education while also playing basketball at the highest level.
What I found out when I got here was that everything at Carolina is done at the highest level. The first fall I was on campus, women’s soccer won a national championship. That spring, Brie Felnagle won the 1500 meters national championship and Justin Ryncavage won the javelin throw national championship. The baseball team went to the College World Series. The women’s basketball team went to the Final Four.
We lost to Georgetown in the NCAA tournament final eight. We were one of the best teams in the entire country…but we weren’t even the best team on our own campus.
We did a little better the next year — we made it to the Final Four. But that same year, field hockey won the national championship. The baseball team went back to the College World Series.
In the fall of 2008, women’s soccer won the national championship — again. That’s their 19th NCAA championship. Do you know how hard it is to find room for 19 banners? The men’s soccer team played for the national championship, and so did the women’s lacrosse team. The baseball team went to the College World Series — again.
A couple weeks ago, my teammates and I stood in the Smith Center and watched them unveil the banner for our 2009 national championship. It reminded me of all the hard work that went into winning that title. But it also reminded me how high the standard is at Carolina.
Since I got here, I’ve gone to Boshamer Stadium and watched Dustin Ackley — the best hitter in college baseball — play. I’ve gone to Kenan Stadium and watched Hakeem Nicks — the best receiver in college football — play. I’ve gone to Carmichael Auditorium and watched Ivory Latta — the best point guard in women’s basketball — play. I know some schools have a great program or maybe even two. But there’s nowhere else that you can walk across campus and see the very best in so many sports on any normal day.
Being a Tar Heel is more than just the Old Well or the fight song or Franklin Street. It’s doing things the right way — in every area. We’ve been the top-ranked ACC school in the Director’s Cup all three years that I’ve been here. But it’s more than winning. We also had 274 student-athletes on the 2009 ACC Academic Honor Roll.
The Rams Club members here gave all of us the opportunity to make that happen. I know there are other benefits to giving a scholarship. You get tickets, or you get a better parking pass, or you get the chance to come to dinners like these. But just know that you did something I appreciate even more: you gave a kid from California a chance to come to Chapel Hill, spend the best four years of my life, and totally understand what it means to say I’m Deon Thompson, and I’m a Tar Heel.
Thanks Marc, Marcus, and Deon for the memories and for showing all of us what it means to be a Tar Heel. It’s been a pleasure.