The enthusiasm for UNC men's basketball is apparent as the sea of Carolina blue continues to roar and the jerseys and banners of years past wave majestically overhead.
But a less noticeable facet of UNC basketball is the ball boys who eagerly perch under both baskets, ready to help the game run more smoothly by assisting players and referees.
The boys arrive to home games two hours early and are responsible for helping the team warm up by rebounding and collecting stray balls, wiping up sweat from fallen players during games and giving referees water and towels.
Currently, there are four permanent ball boys, ranging in ages from 10 to 17, and six alternates.
During the game, fans can spot four ball boys monitoring the action from under the baskets, scrambling around with white towel in tow or running up to the referees during time-outs, proffering a handy towel and a cup of water.
The ball boys say they love their jobs and donate a portion of their days to UNC basketball for a variety of reasons. "It's something to do with my spare time after I've done homework," said 14-year-old Rashard Farrow.
The older ball boys can count the hours as community service to meet high school graduation requirements.
But the joy of watching a game close-up and bonding with the players are perks all the ball boys enjoy.
"My favorites are (Ronald) Curry and (Kris) Lang," said 10-year-old Stephen Burns. "They are really nice to me."
But sometimes the players can get too close for comfort, as William Scroggs, 10, can attest. "Kris Lang fell on top of me at my first game -- he was going up to rebound and he fell," he said.
A few of the boys take their love of the game to the local leagues. "I like to play," William said. "To come to Carolina and play basketball is one of my goals."
The ball boys got their positions through their parents, who are involved with the UNC athletics department in one way or another.
"It's a long-standing tradition in the Carolina basketball office to use the children of staff members," said Willie Scroggs, associate athletics director and father of William.
Gary Burns, father of Stephen, runs the clock at games. Reginald Farrow, father of ball boys Rashard and Reggie Farrow, serves as an usher.
The fathers said they appreciate the excitement the position gives their sons.
"He absolutely lives for it," Gary said of Stephen. "He's ready three, four hours ahead of the game, dressed with his sneakers laced up."
Gary said he realizes being a ball boy is a positive experience. "(The players) are all great guys, good role models. They treat (Stephen) well," he said.
While the fathers and sons come to watch the players hustle, the boys' dedication doesn't go unnoticed by the team.
"They work very hard, as if they are ready to play themselves," Haywood said. "They have a lot of energy and are fun to be around."
Warm-up presents a chance for ball boys to test their basketball skills.
"They have a competitive side to them," Lang said. "They want to play us one-on-one to get us warmed up."
Regardless of who triumphs in the one-on-one games, the ball boys keep coming back for more.
Ball boy Reggie, 17, has held his post under the goal for eight years.
"I love Carolina basketball. I breathe, sleep and eat Carolina basketball."
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