Thursday afternoon, Stilman White sat in a corner of the North Carolina locker room, watching the UNC Wilmington-Virginia game on his phone. He might play for the Tar Heels, but there’s still a part of him that’s a Seahawks fan at heart after growing up in Wilmington.
“I’m the No. 1 Brett Blizzard fan,” referring to the program’s all-time leading scorer, who graduated in 2003 and spawned an endless litany of stories that began, “It was warm outside Trask Coliseum but there was a blizzard inside: Brett Blizzard.”
All of that gives the North Carolina guard a little perspective on N.C. State’s decision Friday to hire Kevin Keatts away from Wilmington after three successful years there.
“It’s for sure been a lot more fun to pull for them,” White said. “Coach Keatts did a great job in Wilmington. There had been kind of some down years. Wilmington’s very proud of UNCW and the program that coach (Jerry) Wainright and coach (Brad) Brownell built, and so to see them down for a couple years, everyone was really excited to see what coach Keatts has done. All my friends, all over Snapchat when they played Virginia, everything was ‘fly Hawks fly,’ ‘wings up.’ They were real excited.”
From a basketball perspective, White compared Wilmington’s style under Keatts to North Carolina’s up-tempo style, while also noticing the defensive elements Keatts learned from Rick Pitino at Louisville, especially the pressing. And a year after Wilmington lost to Duke in the first round of the tournament, the Seahawks were up big on the Cavaliers before Virginia pulled it out in the end.
“They’re a really fun team to watch,” White said. “I don’t think people understand, because they don’t get much exposure, how much of a fun team that was to watch. Unfortunately, they only got to play one game in the tournament. I thought for sure they could do some damage and be a good story.”
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock