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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

North Carolina has succeeded with players from Tar Heel state

UPDATED: Sun., April 2, 2017

North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks hails from Charlotte, North Carolina. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)
North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks hails from Charlotte, North Carolina. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – “Dadgum” Roy Williams has become famous for his mountain-country accent, but he’s hardly the only person on the North Carolina bench with a drawl.

This year the Tar Heels start three players who grew up in North Carolina, an unusually high number for a program with such a national brand.

When the Tar Heels won the title in 2005, Rashad McCants was the only in-state starter. None of the regular contributors on UNC’s 2009 championship team grew up in the Tar Heel state.

“I love having in-state kids,” UNC coach Williams said. “If they’re good enough.”

Williams said that having local players can create a more familial atmosphere on the team, and that he never wants to forget the local players while chasing All-Americans.

He recalled being an assistant on Dean Smith’s UNC team that let local recruit Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell go to Charlotte, where he led the other Carolina school to the 1977 Final Four.

There are few places to be a highly regarded recruit quite like North Carolina, where the UNC-Duke rivalry is among the greatest in college sports, and the UNC-North Carolina State one isn’t shabby, either. Outside that triangle, Wake Forest is another ACC team that’s had some good years.

“We talked about it after the game yesterday,” said Theo Pinson, who hails from Greensboro, on Sunday. “We’ve got a guy from Oxford (Isaiah Hicks), we’ve got (two) guys from Charlotte (Kennedy Meeks and Luke Maye, actually from nearby Huntersville). It’s cool to have those guys who understand – I think we understand as a group how much Tar Heel Nation loves us so much.

“They basically play through us,” he continued. “They want us to win so much. It’s just very cool.”

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