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The Daily Tar Heel

`Midnight' Showcases Doherty

Doherty made his first entrance at "Midnight with the Tar Heels," after ESPN's Stuart Scott, acting as the emcee for Friday night's festivities, coaxed Doherty's 3-point shooting opponent into taunting "Are you scared?" across the floor of Carmichael Auditorium.

Clearly, Doherty wasn't intimidated by the taunt and made his entrance like a politician, smiling and waving.

Although the name of Friday's event had been changed from last year's "Midnight with Matt," it was still Matt Doherty's show.

Doherty led the 4-on-4 coaches-versus-students effort, cheating obviously and charmingly.

"They're known for tipping it a little," said North Carolina forward Kris Lang after the game.

The students' team jumped ahead of the coaches -- and Scott -- early and pretty much led most of the game. (By the way, best moment of the whole thing -- Scott shoots a jumper at 18:24 that misses badly. Crowd goes into the ever-popular "air ball" chant. Doherty stops next to Scott, throws his arms around Scott's shoulders and cupped his hand to his ear. Priceless.)

But, much like last year's game against UNC students, Doherty's team started getting all kinds of calls.

And then, the clock stopped at 10:09. Play continued until Doherty hit a 3. Apparently the clock problem was solved, as it immediately started ticking down. Boos ensued.

"What's up with that?" Doherty said after the game. "A man's got to do what he's got to do to win."

About the clock work: "You like that? (The scoreboard operator) gets a check.

"He knows who butters his bread."

First-year graduate student L.J. Hepp bedeviled the coaches and Scott during the brief game. And even though Hepp and his teammates lost in front of 10,000 people, he was all smiles after it was over.

"I didn't notice," he said of the clock. "I was just so fortunate to play with the coaches in front of all those people."

All those people had another purpose, something the shrewd recruiter in Doherty couldn't help but take advantage of. After the volleyball court was cleared off and the floor stood empty, UNC's committed recruits and their families paraded in to a front row seat along with recruits Doherty would very much like to land.

Jason Fraser and Brad Buckman, two guys UNC wants, were the center of much of the fans' cheers. "We Want Fraser" and "We Want Buckman" yells in addition to the sight of a packed Carmichael made North Carolina look like a great place to be.

Since the Smith Center rarely matches that sort of fervor, it was a perfect opportunity for Doherty to sell the University and its fan support to these prized recruits.

All in all, it was a successful night for Doherty. He probably made a huge impression on the recruits and their families, charmed fans with his antics and most importantly, left everyone hanging with the most cryptic comment of the night.

Doherty read a letter from UNC defensive end Julius Peppers. The letter opened the door to the possibility that the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Peppers might not forgo basketball season after all.

"I don't think Pep is going to tease you," Doherty said after the festivities.

The suggestion of Peppers returning to the court to bolster the Tar Heels was magnificently timed, as fans and media alike have wondered how the team would perform without Joseph Forte and Brendan Haywood.

With Peppers on the court, a lot of UNC's doubters would be back in their bandwagon seats.

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Hey, a guy's got to do what he's got to do to win, right?

Rachel Carter can be reached at