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October 14, 2006

Festivities steal the show at UNC

Smith key to Vols plan
Midnight Madness Preview
The College Basketball Wire

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. Stuart Scott, who was serving as emcee, stopped in mid-sentence. Nobody was paying attention to him anymore.

All of the 21,000 fans who packed the Dean Dome for North Carolina's version of Midnight Madness on Friday night were fixated on Roy Williams as he and his assistants entered the court. It created a large roar and signaled the start to what would be a night of outrageous skits, nonstop laughs and the unofficial unveiling of six freshmen who make up the nation's top-ranked recruiting class.

Even Williams, 56, got into the act, dancing at midcourt with his players to a popular rap tune from Dem Franchize Boyz.

"I guarantee that wouldn't be the song I would have picked to dance to," Williams said. "I would have gone with the Temptations or Marvin Gaye."

The casual attitude went right along with the theme of the night.

All 17 players took turns making the crowd giggle and cheer. They did leg lifts with the cheerleaders, donned suits, canes, shades, wigs and even did the worm.

There was a beauty pageant with the winner, of course, being "Mr. UNC," senior Reyshawn Terry. He beat out "Mr. Miami" (freshman Deon Thompson), "Cowboy Bobbit" (sophomore Bobby Frasor) and a geeky student from Duke (freshman Wayne Ellington).

Sophomore Marcus Ginyard dressed up in drag and a purple wig to perform the Tar Heels' version of MTV's dating show "Next."

Senior Wes Miller even did what has become his signature impression of Williams for the third consecutive year, complete with the silver wig and his fists pumping wildly in the air.

"It's always fun being coach, but he'll get me back by putting us on the line," Miller said. "Coach always gets the last laugh."

Once the acting was over, the event took on a more serious tone. The team went through a 20-minute scrimmage, which served to show the gaudy amount of talent the Tar Heels have assembled.

None of the freshmen dominated, but all the big names showed flashes of why they arrived with so much hype.

Tywon Lawson, who is expected to give the team a pass-first floor general, used some fancy dribbling to weave past defenders. He maneuvered his way through traffic to score on an acrobatic layup.

Shooting guard Ellington nailed two jumpers, a 3-pointer, and drove to the basket for a two-handed slam.

Power forward Brandan Wright, who could create a great tandem with bruising center Tyler Hansbrough, took one dribble from the foul line and kissed the ball off the glass for one of his two buckets.

Big man Alex Stepheson, who lacked the attention of the three five-star prospects, was equally impressive. He scored on a textbook right jump hook and showed plenty of toughness on the inside, finishing with seven points.

Those performances stirred up talk of the Tar Heels, who return four starters, using a 12-man rotation.

"Every day in pickup games it's been amazing," Miller said. "We are so deep and have so many guys who can do so many different things. The next step is just getting us all to come together."

Hansbrough, the runaway winner for National Freshman of the Year awards last season, made it clear who was the best player on the court. The sophomore did all sorts of damage on the inside, finishing with a game-high 11 points and leading his White squad to a 38-22 win over the Blue.

"Once Tyler gets on the court it's like turning a switch on," Terry said. "You can always depend on him and know that he is going to leave it all out on the floor every time."

Sophomore Danny Green added 10 points for the Blue.

Frasor played only two minutes before coming out with a minor injury to his right ankle. Williams said "he just tweaked it" and didn't believe it was serious.

The White team consisted of juniors Quentin Thomas and Surry Wood, sophomore Marc Campbell, Ginyard, Ellington, Frasor, Thompson and Hansbrough.

The Blue team was composed of senior Dewey Burke, sophomore Mike Copeland, Terry, Lawson, Graves, Miller, Stepheson and Wright.

At least three recruits attended the event, including five-star juniors Delvon Roe and Howard Thompkins and sophomore Akeem Richmond.

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