The North Carolina Tar Heels are your 2017 National Champions! What a season it was for this team. The ups, the downs, the adversity, and they still were able to achieve their goal of wining that exclusive National Title. This year’s team was very special in so many ways and they showed us all why they deserve the platform they now have.
After the hearts of Tar Heels around the world were broken by a last second shot against Villanova, this team made it their mission, their soul purpose to get back to the National Championship game and redeem themselves. With the team losing Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, I don’t think many people had them actually contending for a title this year. People forgot that they were returning a strong core of veteran players, who had tasted a little bit of success and wanted more.
This wasn’t a team made up of players who carried that instant superstar tag, but they were made up of guys who played their role to the best of their ability. Most importantly these guys worked extremely hard in the off-season. As a former player, and current pro I spend a majority of my time in off season inside the Smith Center working out, so I get to see what guys are doing when no one else is in the gym. I’ve witnessed Joel Berry pull the gun (a shooting machine) out to get up extra shots up after pick up games. When I was telling everyone about Luke Maye being a stud and it was a matter a time before he broke out, it wasn’t some wild guess. I witnessed Luke Maye knocking twenty consecutive three pointers in his individual workouts with Coach Hubert Davis. My guy Theo Pinson, worked on his all around game a lot. I would call Theo to either meet me at the gym, or we would stay and play games of 1 on 1 from every angle on the floor. Nate continued to develop; he didn’t hit a wall where he didn’t get better. He was able to learn from some of the former UNC point guard greats. I hated to see Kenny Williams go down, because I know he will become one of the elite shooters of UNC. Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks developed into grown men in the paint. It didn’t hurt them that Sean May, 2005 MOP, was there to assist them. The incoming freshman class came in willing to learn and work. Justin Jackson testing the NBA waters proved to be a huge benefit for him. If I’m correct I think he has improved in every area they said he needed to, and should be an easy 1st round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Tony Bradley had to take his lumps from the likes of Rasheed Wallace, some of the guys had to learn from the sideline because of our seniority rule in the gym, they may not have been able to get on the floor. Bottom line is, these guys earned the legacy that they just created.
What made this team special to me was the way they were able to come together despite all the things that have been going on. That battle through tough losses, injuries, the unfair criticism of Coach Williams, the perception of UNC not being as good because of the lack five star recruits signing, the alleged NCAA allegations, and to top all that, the pressure of carrying on the legacy of a Tar Heel and being a winner. Little things that may not show up on the stat sheets got this team to this point. Fighting through injuries, being great teammates, sacrificing personal statistics for the greater good of the team and my favorite, free throw line tip outs.
I am so proud of this team, especially Joel and Theo. Two separate occasions this summer these two took time out of there Saturday, summer, schedules to work my basketball clinics and speak to the kids. They talked about the disappointment that the felt after losing last year, and they also talked about how the wanted to redeem themselves. Those kids they spoke to lives may have forever been changed because they heard Theo and Joel talk about setting goals and then they were able to watch them achieve those exact goals. Salute to the entire 2016-2017 UNC men’s basketball team. Welcome to the table of Champions… We’ve been expecting you!