North Carolina sophomore Luke Maye came close to choosing Davidson as the school where he’d play college basketball.
When he was in high school, Davidson coach Bob McKillop pushed hard for the 6-8 forward, who attended many of the coach’s camps as a child.
Maye grew up in Huntersville, a six minute drive from Davidson, and a few exits up Interstate 77 in Mecklenburg County.
“Coach McKillop’s a great coach,” Maye said. “I really admired his coaching and he does a great job with his team. It was a really tough decision.”
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But in the end, Maye chose to play for the Tar Heels.
On Wednesday, Maye got a chance to play against the team he almost played for and the coach who recruited him so hard.
The Tar Heels won 83-74 and Maye didn’t disappoint. He scored a career-high 10 points, all of which came in the first half. He also grabbed six rebounds.
Williams put him in the game with four other players off the bench, when the starters couldn’t get going early in the first half. It gave the Tar Heels a spark.
“First half he made a couple of shots,” UNC coach Roy Williams said of Maye. “They called him for charging, that I didn’t think was right, but he did some good things to help us.”
Maye said his teammates found him open and he was able to knock down a few shots early.
“That gave me a little confidence,” Maye said.
When he’s not scoring, he’s hustling for loose balls. On one play in the first half against Davidson, Maye put up a close shot, missed it, rebounded his own miss, almost lost the ball, recovered it as three Davidson defenders surrounded him and then found a wide open Justin Jackson in the corner for a three-pointer.
Plays like that make him a fan favorite, said UNC junior Tanner Brittain, who sat in the student section Wednesday wearing Tar Heel blue.
When he scores a big basket, students and fans yell “Luuuuuuuuuuke!”
“He plays hard, has a lot of effort and never gives up on a play,” Brittain said.
And Maye takes pride in that.
“I think I bring a workman’s like mentality, rebounding, bring kind of that stretch-four mentality as well,” Maye said. “I’m able to shoot it a little bit, make good passes and get people open shots.”
Senior Kennedy Meeks, who often goes against Maye in practice, said he’s the same in practice as he is in a game.
“It’s definitely difficult, because he’s so physical and he’s everywhere on the court,” Meeks said. He’s always moving, he’s always talking, he’s always active, and that’s the type of player that we need.”
This was Maye’s third game back since injuring his ankle against Chattanooga on Nov 13. He didn’t play much against Indiana, where he says he came back a little early. He played 14 minutes against Radford. And on Wednesday night he played 16 minutes and would have played more if not for foul trouble.
Maye said he made some mistakes in the second half with a few turnovers and unnecessary fouls.
Jackson, who rooms with Maye, said he tries to encourage him to find his right spots on the floor and to play his role for the team.
“And that’s knock down shots, rebound the ball, and just have energy,” Jackson said. “And if he can do that and not really force anything or do anything outside of himself, he will be just fine.”
Tennessee at UNC
When: 6 p.m., Sunday
Where: Smith Center, Chapel Hill