Marcus Paige, the North Carolina senior guard, gave a senior night speech to remember on Monday after the Tar Heels' 75-70 victory against Syracuse.
And so here it is in his own words, with minimal editing for clarity – Paige's senior night speech:
“Thank you. Thank you. Oh, man, Brice and Joel – you guys did a great job speaking. This is going to be a tough act to follow. I'm a little bit more emotional than them, so this might be tough. First and foremost, I've got to thank my parents. Mom, you were crying before the game and almost had me in tears, already. I love you. Came down here from Iowa.
“I still haven't developed a southern accent, but this place has been like a second home to me. Everyone down here has taken care of me and I'm real happy for that. Grandpa – glad you could make it down, all the rest of my friends and family, it means a lot. Thank you, Taylor, for putting up with me. You're the sweetest girl ever. Had to throw that one in there. Yep – that's her right there. All right. Thank the fans – you guys are awesome.
“Like Brice said, it's not been the easiest four years for the program. A whole bunch of stuff has gone on. We've tried to fight through it all four years and play as hard as we can, do everything we can to represent North Carolina. So thank you guys. Thank you guys for sticking with us. It could have been easy with all this stuff to just kind of quit on us. But you guys never quit on us and now we're one game away from accomplishing something really big.
“To the coaches. Start with coach Rob. Coach Rob, I remember (hearing) … the one person that was going to drive me crazy when I got here was you. You did a good job of helping me through my four years and you always give me a wisecrack every now and then, and I appreciate that. But thank you for everything you've been to me.
“Coach Freddy (Brad Frederick), thank you – the new coach Holladay. You've done a good job filling in his shoes. I love having you around. Coach (Hubert) Davis, you've been huge for me as inspiration. When you got here I think I learned about hard work a little more than I ever did. Because obviously you came here, you were told you weren't going to play a lot. You worked your butt off and became a great player and NBA player, and you've motivated all of us to be better, and I really thank you for that. I don't get a chance to thank you enough, so thank you.
“C.B (McGrath). C.B, man. I don't even know what to say. I don't even know what to say about you. I remember you came and first watched me play in Milwaukee. I shot about how I shot today. And I thought the chance to play at my dream school was over. But talking to you on the phone, whether it's for 30 seconds – 'Hello, how you've been? All right. Cool. Bye.' – or you coming to my house and putting cheese on everything at our in-home visit. Being weird like you are, man. I love you for that. And you've been great to me. You've uplifted me when I've been down, and have helped me through. You've been kind of like a dad away from home for me, and I know my parents love you for that. So thank you.”
“I'll go to my teammates first. Sorry, coach, you've got to wait. My teammates. No, you know what – I'll go to coach Williams. When I first got here, I thought I was going to play behind Kendall Marshall, five or six minutes a game – spot minutes – and kind of develop, become a better player over four years. But he left, and you kind of handed me the keys to the program, and to the team. And you probably had more confidence in me than I did at that time. And a lot of people were doubting me as a freshman, but one thing is you always believed in me. You always told me: 'I believe you in son. You're going to make shots, you're going to do fine. You're going to be a great player.'
“You just believed in me, and I can't thank you enough for that, because that allowed me to be a confident person in my and help me grow as a person. And I know the most important thing, I know my mom's going to appreciate this, is I've started taking note of the thought of the day every day in practice. Because it's a lot of words of wisdom. And I know one day (I'm not going) to walk through this tunnel and meet with you at the beginning of practice every day. And I've tried to be every bit the player you wanted me to be, but you've made me a better man. And that's the most important thing. I'm 10 times a better man than when I got here. Thank you.
“To my teammates. My teammates – my teammates, man. Seen a lot come and go in my four years. Dexter Strickland on down, to the freshman now – Kenny Williams, Luke Maye. Toby, the newcomer. I love you guys. You guys have been like brothers to me. But especially Joel and Brice. We came in together. J.P. (Tokoto) is off doing his own thing right now but he's with us. He's a brother, too. I love you, J.P., wherever you might be. Brice, man – I love you, man. You're like the brother I never had. And I'm going to cherish that the rest of my life. We've lived together for four years. Now, I know sometimes you can't stand me. And all the jokes I make and me correcting your grammar … all that stuff. But hey, I really do – I love you. You've helped me grow. I hope I've helped you grow. And this friendship is going to be something that lasts the rest of our life – no matter where we go or where life takes us. So thank you.
“And last but not last, a quick thanks to Jonas (Sahratian) and Doug (Halverson). You guys took care of me, kept me in one piece, especially last year. You guys are awesome. Everyone behind the scenes … but thank you guys, thank you, everybody.
“Like I was saying, we're not done. We're not done. We've got something left to do. Thank you.”
There you have it. Paige’s senior night speech. Emotional and touching and one that had to leave the audience wondering what UNC assistant coach C.B. McGrath is doing with cheese during recruiting visits. Perhaps we’ll get an answer another time.
Paige said later he didn’t prepare his remarks. He just spoke.