Shea Rush may not have been the most recognizable name in his time playing basketball at North Carolina, but the senior cherished every moment of his time as a Tar Heel.
Now, he attributes much of his personal and professional development to being a part of the UNC basketball program.
Growing up, Rush never really thought playing basketball at North Carolina was a possibility. He lived in Missouri, and through part of his senior year in high school, he planned to commit to an Ivy League school.
Then, Roy Williams gave him a call.
“As soon as he called,” he said, “I knew that that was exactly what I wanted to do.”
Rush visited UNC in February of his senior year of high school and committed as a walk-on before he even left town to go home. It was just the start of what would be the best years of his life.
Fast forward to now, and Rush is a college senior, on scholarship for the past three years. He has already taken one of his last few final exams before he is set to graduate next month.
As he reflects back on his time at UNC, basketball is central to nearly all of his experiences. He certainly became a better player over the last four years, but he says the program means much more to him.
“I think the biggest thing this program does, at least for me, is it teaches you a lot of lessons outside of basketball,” Rush said, “It’s not only a successful basketball program, but the players that come out of it turn into successful people, and just good people in general.”
He has been able to interact on a daily basis with UNC legends that he admired while growing up, one of his favorite aspects of his experience in the program.
“Marvin Williams was one of my favorite players growing up, and he’s been such a mentor to me,” Rush said. “I met Michael Jordan, and that was maybe the greatest moment of my life.”
To Rush, UNC basketball is family, and all current, former and future players are a part of it. Former players are always willing to lend advice or just talk with anybody who has worn a Carolina Blue jersey.
“They’re going to treat you the exact same as them," Rush said. "You are family. I didn’t understand how true that was until I got to the program.”
Some of the closest relationships he has formed while at UNC are not just with his current teammates, but with coach and former player Sean May as well as former player Stilman White, who was a senior when Rush was a first-year.
Without any hesitation, he says his favorite memory came in that first season — the 2017 national championship. Though he didn’t check into the game, he has told Williams on multiple occasions that it is the most fun he’s ever had playing basketball.
“It was truly that incredible, that impactful,” Rush said. “You felt like a part of something special. I think that ties into the family piece. Whether you’re the leading scorer or the last guy on the bench, each and every guy on the team wants to include each and every other guy on the team. Every feeling and emotion is shared.”
The thing he’ll miss most about being a part of it all, though, is not the games. He likes the media attention and the free shoes, too, but neither is his pick.
“That stuff is all fun, but the thing that I will miss most, without a doubt, are my teammates,” he said. “It was the greatest bond and friendship I’ve ever had on a team.”
Rush starts as a private wealth manager in Chicago next month, and he says some of first clients will be former Tar Heel teammates who have moved on to the next level of basketball.
“Carolina basketball played a significant role in making that possible, but even more so, it led me to find what it was that I wanted to do,” he said. “It’s kind of a dream job for me and for it to come into fruition has been absolutely incredible. I’m really excited to get underway.”
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