Shea Rush needed a moment before talking with media members. He had to get what was happening around him on camera.
In the corner of the Dean Smith Center, a man was shooting jump shots on an empty basket with a friend.
It was North Carolina’s annual media day, and while the players were waiting to be interviewed, for a brief moment, all eyes were on the man with dreadlocks, drenched in sweat as he took shot after shot.
It was Fayetteville rapper J. Cole.
Rush, a senior guard at UNC, whipped out his iPhone, and began to record Cole shooting.
“I gotta get him making a shot,” he said excitedly. “He’s the man.”
The Grammy-nominated and platinum-selling rapper, whose real name is Jermaine Cole, is a lifelong Tar Heels fan. He’s watched UNC basketball games — from the front row — at the Dean Smith Center.
Cole, the rapper, politely declined to be interviewed by the N&O Wednesday.
Rush said Cole comes to hang out with the team from time to time.
“He’s been around a bunch of times in my time here,” Rush said. “He just tries to keep it low key. He just happened to come on the wrong day.”
UNC freshman guard Cole Anthony was excited too. He called J. Cole “one of the best rappers of all time.” He said he first met the rapper over the summer. The two played basketball at Life Time Athletic at Sky in New York, a popular gym where NBA players participate in pickup basketball games.
“He really loves the game,” Anthony said on Tuesday. “As you can tell he’s working out. He’s good. He can definitely play. I’ve seen him working out a couple times before. He’s a real cool dude, real down to earth.“
After his workout, he dapped up UNC coach Roy Williams and the players before taking a a few photos with them. He also took photos with some of the Charlotte Hornets’ players, who held training camp practice at the Dean Smith Center earlier in the day.
Then he left the gym.