The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Sunday, May 26, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Freshmen Impress With Record-Setting Debut

Fortunately for the North Carolina men's basketball team, three freshmen weren't worried in the least.

For the first time in school history, three freshmen started for UNC in its season opener. But Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants certainly didn't give the impression of inexperienced players against Penn State at the Smith Center.

In the game's opening minute, the trio made its presence known with Felton setting up a fast-paced offense peppered with a layup from May and two dunks from McCants that had the 16,282 fans on their feet.

"We have to come out and play hard," Felton said. "We are freshmen, but that doesn't mean anything. Just because you're a freshman doesn't mean you're not going to come out and play good.

"You just come out and play your game. Everybody you're playing against has two arms and two feet just like you. Just because you're a freshman and not a senior -- that doesn't mean anything."

Felton's seamless transition into the role of UNC floor leader put worth behind the 6-foot-1 1/2 point guard's words. Felton paced the game at a quick tempo, allowing the Tar Heels to put their athleticism to use and beat the Nittany Lions down the floor.

Although Felton said he can put up more than the nine points he scored Monday if necessary, he let his teammates do most of the shooting while dishing out 10 assists -- the most ever by a freshman in his first game.

"I love to be the leader," Felton said. "I'm not the type of guy that wants to go out and score 50 points. I just want to be the leader and win. I want to control the team and control what happens on the court, and that's what I'm here to do."

Felton wasn't the only freshman to have the first of what likely will be many career nights. McCants, who sat out with a shoulder injury in the Tar Heels' loss to Team Nike last week, jumped out and scored 10 points in the game's opening four minutes.

McCants continued to lead UNC's offense, finishing with another freshman first-game record of 28 points, also a team high.

May rounded out the impressive trifecta by not only dominating the post with 17 points and 10 boards but also getting his hand in for four steals.

"For a 6-9 guy weighing 260, I think I move pretty well," May said.

The performance of UNC's freshmen and a definitive victory eased Doherty's nerves a bit after the game. Meanwhile, the North Carolina faithful are anxious to hop back on the bandwagon to support Felton, May, McCants and the Tar Heels.

When asked if the trio has already come up with a catchy nickname reminiscent of Michigan's Fab Five, McCants just smiled.

"We don't know about that," he said. "But we'll probably work on a nickname for the national championship. We'll try and win that."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.