A CHAMPIONSHIP, ESPECIALLY a national championship -- when the adrenalin wears off, when the euphoria recedes -- brings about moments of quiet reflection. Such as, this Tar Heel senior class may have been the best UNC basketball has ever seen. Maybe the best we will see.
Such thoughts immediately turn our eyes to the key member of that class. Not to belabor the obvious, it all centers on Mike Copeland.
With the victory over the Michigan State Spartans, UNC senior forward Mike Copeland broke, quite aptly, Quentin Thomas' UNC record of 123 wins for his career. During his stint at UNC, Copeland went 124-22. (Oh, yeah, Bobby Frasor, Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough also share the record with Copeland -- but not without him.)
Mike Copeland never made the honor roll on the court once the whistle blew, but he held honored roles just before it. For his career Copeland averaged one point and one rebound in three minutes per game -- when he played -- but let us not forget that he was Danny Green's key "Jump Around" dance mate in the pre-game ritual that got the team loose before what were sometimes pressure-filled games.
He was also the slap-around guy who greets the team's starters as they were introduced before the tip off. His playful manner and infectious smile made hard for any of the starters not to relax. Even the stoic Tyler Hansbrough.
Bench players and practice players with good attitudes, like Quentin Thomas and Mike Copeland, really do help the chemistry of great teams.
Praisin’ Frasor, thinkin’ of Duke
I don't want our Duke-fan friends to feel neglected, to think we weren't thinking about them. We were. I went to a distinctly Carolina-blue Tar Heel championship viewing party. Trust me, we were thinking about the Devils.
We even sang about them. Before the game began, we sang "Hark the Sound," a cappella, no less. (Which was much more pleasant musically speaking than the extremely loud drunken karaoke that was going on in the background last weekend as my wife and I watched UNC in the regional finals in a bar in Ocracoke.)
But why would we sing of Duke? Monday night was fun, but there was one game for Tar Heel fans, one in the last four years, that most would agree, was more fun. National championships are glorious, no doubt, but one regular-season game three years ago may have been more pleasurable.
Bobby Frasor was the starting point guard in one of the most memorable UNC games in recent history -- national championships included. That would be Freshman Night at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 4, 2006, when the freshman-dominated UNC team of Hansbrough, Green, Ginyard and Frasor (Copeland didn't make it into the game) outplayed, outscored and just plain beat the senior-dominated, number-one-ranked Duke team of J.J. Reddick and Sheldon Williams. It was the first of four times that group of players beat Duke in Cameron.
Which reminds us of . . .
Prophets and their prophecies
As the Prophet Rasheed once said, "As long as Me, Touché and Jerry are here, we ain't ever losing here" (where Me refers to Rasheed Wallace, Touché and Jerry speak of Jeff McInnis and Jerry Stackhouse, and here indicates UNC playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium).
Well, according to sports writer Adam Lucas, 'Sheed's prophetic utterance came to pass. Jeff McInnis was 3-0 at Cameron and 6-0 against Duke overall from (1993-94 until 1995-96). Meanwhile, Stackhouse and Wallace were 4-0 against Duke including 2-0 at Cameron.
Finally, a news item . . .
NCAA grants Hansbrough fifth year
INDIANAPOLIS -- In an unprecedented action, the eligibility review committee of the National Collegiate Athletic Association has awarded UNC senior forward Tyler Hansbrough a fifth year of eligibility to play college basketball.
"We estimate Hansbrough spent over one-fourth of his playing career on the free-throw line -- obviously not where he, or anyone else, wanted him to spend it," said NCAA spokesperson Jennifer Kearns. "An extra year only seemed fair," she added.
Gary D. Gaddy, neither Tar Heel born nor Tar Heel bred, will be -- when he dies -- a Tar Heel fan.
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday April 9, 2009.
Copyright 2009 Gary D. Gaddy