Don’t want it to end

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I don’t want it to end.

It’s not that I’m unhappy with the Tarheel season.

I told everyone after the win on &uot;Freshman Night&uot; against Duke that if we (real fans say we) didn’t win another game, I would be satisfied with what this team accomplished.

The reason I don’t want to admit the season is over is because this has been the most entertaining Carolina team I have had the pleasure of watching in my almost 30 years as a Tarheel fanatic.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoyed watching last year’s squad of NBA first rounders tear through the ACC and NCAA on their way to the national title.

There was something different about this season’s group of overachievers though.

We’ve all heard the stats, the top seven scorers and 91 percent of our offense from the previous season was gone.

This group of freshman led by a senior gridiron standout was supposed to suffer through a tough season while Tarheel fans thought about how great next season would be.

There was only one problem with that, nobody told Coach Williams and David Noel.

Instead of watching them suffer, Carolina fans watched their beloved Tarheels blossom under pressure and become one of the best &uot;teams&uot; in UNC history.

That’s not to say that they more talented than any previous team, but I am hard pressed to remember another Carolina squad that played better team basketball that the one that donned the PMS 278 (the exact shade of Carolina blue) jerseys this year.

Time and time again I watched as the Tarheels competed against more talented teams and emerged victorious simply because they out-hustled the opponent.

Sure we had our &uot;not so great&uot; moments, the whooping we took against USC and Miami come to mind.

Those two games aside, I can’t think of a single time when after watching them play I didn’t find myself beaming with Tarheel pride.

Even in the losses they refused to give up and continued to fight until the final buzzer.

Credit for this must be given to Coach Williams.

He recruited not just the best players, but the best men to fit into his system.

Credit must also be given to David Noel for his outstanding leadership.

People lead in different ways, some do it vocally while others tend to speak through their actions.

Noel did both as he could be seen calming down his teammates in one of their many free throw line huddles against Duke or running down court to block what should have been an easy layup against George Mason.

While this team will forever hold a special place in my heart, Noel will join George Lynch, Derrick Phelps and King Rice as one of my favorite Tarheels of all time.

While the temptation may be to start thinking about next season, I want to spend a little more time reflecting what a great one this was.

Besides, I haven’t finished cheering on Sylvia Hatchell and her troops yet!


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