Tears were flowing in the Dean Smith Center on Saturday evening.
The third consecutive victory over rival Duke was at the back of everyone’s mind as a trio of UNC seniors stood up and said their goodbyes to the Tar Heel faithful in Chapel Hill.
“It’s hard for me because I’m fairly emotional anyway,” Roy Williams said during his weekly radio show, reflecting on Saturday’s Senior Night festivities. “I can cry at the drop of a hat I think sometimes.”
Luke Maye, Kenny Williams and Cam Johnson each had the opportunity to take the microphone and say farewell to their teammates and the UNC fanbase after the game.
Kenny Williams was committed to VCU.
Luke Maye was a walk-on, the son of a quarterback.
Cameron Johnson began his career at Pitt.
Today, they're Tar Heel senior leaders.
What a legacy. pic.twitter.com/8nN2plXved
— Turner Walston (@TurnerWalston) March 9, 2019
“I just can’t thank this university enough for the time I’ve had here,” Maye said. “Being from an in-state school, from North Carolina, from Huntersville, the dream was always to play here.”
Maye’s story to Chapel Hill has been well told. The 155th ranked player in the 2015 recruiting class accepted a walk-on offer to Chapel Hill before being placed on scholarship. After hitting the game-winning shot against Kentucky in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Maye quickly rose to stardom and has been an All-ACC selection for the past two seasons.
For Maye, the dream was always to play in Chapel Hill.
“Coach mentioned at shoot-around today that in ’05 we had one of the best comebacks in North Carolina history,” he said, pointing into the stands. “And I was sitting right up there with my dad.”
In 2005, UNC trailed Duke by nine points with three minutes remaining. But freshman Marvin Williams sparked an 11-0 run in the closing minutes of the game to give the Tar Heels a 75-73 victory over the Blue Devils in the Dean Smith Center.
In his speech, Williams took the opportunity to thank assistant coach Hubert Davis.
“I can’t even put it into words, Coach Davis. You’ve meant so much to my life,” he said. “It’s not even basketball, Coach Davis. It’s not about the basketball. I’m able to live my life the way that I live because of you, because I had a role model like you to look up to and because you took me under your wing, and I can’t thank you enough for that.”
Roy Williams already about to lose it when Kenny Williams recognized during senior day pic.twitter.com/P27JIXtcwo
— C.L. Brown (@clbrownhoops) March 9, 2019
Meanwhile, Johnson took a different path than his senior teammates. The Pennsylvania native enrolled at Pittsburgh before transferring to North Carolina for his last two years of eligibility.
In his speech, Johnson thanked his teammates for accepting him in the manner that they did.
“To my teammates, you guys, man you mean the world to me,” Johnson said. “I came here from a different school, and you didn’t have to take me in the way you did. But I feel like this is my family; I feel like this is my home.”
For Coach Williams, every Senior Night is an emotional and difficult affair.
“They’re saying some personal things, and it brings back things that have happened over the four years, and I have a difficult time looking at them while they’re talking. So I most of the time just my head down and keep going.”