WITH THE RETURN to UNC's men's basketball team of Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and Tywon Lawson, a team that includes all the players from last year's squad except for reserves Quentin Thomas and Alex Stepheson, in addition to our triumvirate that tested the NBA draft waters and found that the waters weren't "just right," adds three McDonald's All-Americans, Ed Davis, Larry Drew and Tyler Zeller.
Next year's team, if not the best, will be one of the deepest to ever walk on the court at UNC -- or any college for that matter, excluding the combined freshman and varsity squads at UCLA in 1965. (The varsity were the defending national champs -- but lost to the freshman in a pre-season exhibition game. Oh yeah, the freshman team included a guy named Lew Alcindor.)
Which turns us to the topic at hand: the naming of UNC's All-Time All-Airport Team. Dick Vitale, your favorite basketball announcer and mine, once said something entertaining, in talking about a category of college basketball players he called "all-airport," meaning players who looked good – in the airport.
Timo Makkonen (small forward) was, without a doubt, the best Finnish male to play scholarship basketball for UNC. In fact, he was the only Finnish male to play scholarship basketball for UNC. In 5 years, Timo played in 41 games and totaled exactly as many points and personal fouls together as games played -- sadly he had more fouls than points.
Ed Geth (power forward) left UNC with a degree and a year of basketball eligibility left, as well he should have. Ed, bless his heart, had a hard time running the length of the court without stepping on his own foot.
Neil Fingleton (center) I first saw Neil Fingleton in person at the Best Buy at New Hope Commons in Durham. As I scanned my way up from his belly button, which was at my eye level, to the top of his head, which appeared to scrape the beams of the building's twenty-foot ceiling, my thought was: "Boy, this guy is tall." Neil may be the leading candidate for the all-time, all-division, all-schools, all-sports, all-airport team at 7-foot-7.56-inches tall. This is one big boy. One point and one assist for his career.
Jonathan Holmes (point guard) First, let me say, I that loved Jonathan. Sometimes he used to sit with Will Johnson on row behind my wife and I in church. Jonathan’s most notable accomplishment at UNC was bringing to light the vigilant job the NCAA in policing criminal behavior, being suspended, along with Morehead scholar-athlete Will Johnson for playing in a charity three-on-three basketball tournament that they paid to enter. They money raised went to Carolina Cancer Focus. Those were unfortunately also Jonathan's most notable minutes on a UNC basketball court.
Orlando Melendez (shooting guard) Now, this fact, and I say it is a fact, may remain unverified because I know of no source no more credible than me to back it up, but on the UNC teams that included Vince Carter, that is, the Vince "Half man, half amazing" Carter, Carter was not, I repeat not, the best dunker on the team. That would have been, according to Carter, Orlando Melendez.
I know, I know, Vince Carter was the winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. I know, I know, Vince Carter once jumped over, I repeat over, Frederic Weis, a 7-foot-2 player from France, during the 2000 Olympics and dunked. Yes, that same Vince Carter said that he couldn't beat Orlando in a team slam dunk contest. His quote, to the best I can reconstruct it was, "He could do dunks I could not even try."
Orlando apparently could do all kinds of one-legged twisting, turning dunks that bordered on the physically impossible. (Just to give an idea of how improbable those dunks might have been, I saw Vince Carter, in an NCAA playoff game, when the game had not been decided, get a break-a-way steal and do a 540 dunk. That is, come at the basket, spin around so he did a full revolution of his body, then continue on until his back was to the basket and dunk behind his head. This was Vince's idea of a snowbird lay-up.)
Orlando could have also made the Olympic team -- in the high jump, the broad jump, the triple jump -- just not in any sport that included a ball.
Anyone who has any comments or criticisms of my selections for UNC's All-Time All-Airport Team, I refer you to Neil Offen, the editor of the Chapel Hill Herald, he gets paid to get abused, and, besides, cares a lot more about this kind of stuff than I ever could. (If, per chance, you still looking for someone to blame for this year's Final Four debacle: In lieu of viewing, Neil went to the theater that night.)
Gary D. Gaddy almost played on his high school’s JV basketball team.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday July 3, 2008.
Coyright 2008 Gary D. Gaddy