Luke DeCock

Fedora furor finished, UNC’s hatter reclaims anonymity – DeCock

UNC's Shea Rush makes hats for his Tar Heel teammates

UNC's Shea Rush made personalized hats as a thank you for his Tar Heel teammates for their NCAA journey.
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UNC's Shea Rush made personalized hats as a thank you for his Tar Heel teammates for their NCAA journey.

Shea Rush’s 15 minutes of fame are over. For now, anyway. That could still change.

A week after his bespoke hattery was the talk of the NCAA first and second rounds in South Carolina, the North Carolina freshman sat quietly in front of his FedEx Forum locker Thursday, unbothered, looking at his phone.

The man with the hat hobby was anonymous once again.

UNC's Shea Rush made personalized hats as a thank you for his Tar Heel teammates for their NCAA journey.

In both Brooklyn and Greenville, S.C., the custom hats Rush made for everyone on the team became a huge story, especially when the team posed for pictures in them. Rush was an extremely popular man. By the time the Tar Heels made it to Memphis, the old-school hats were old news.

“I was a little surprised,” Rush said. “I wasn’t looking for anything. I don’t want it to be a distraction, so I’m kind of glad it’s kind of died down. Coach is superstitious, so he’s got his hat on this trip, and we’ve all got them. He made sure to tell me he brought his hat.”

Roy Williams was indeed wearing his Rush-made fedora when he got off the bus at the team hotel Wednesday night.

VIDEO: Wearing their custom fedoras, the North Carolina men's basketball team arrives in Memphis, TN, on Wednesday evening, March 22, 2017, before the Tar Heels' Sweet 16 game against Butler on Friday.

Even if there’s less interest in the hats from the media, there’s plenty of interest from potential customers. Rush said all the publicity led to about 300 inquiries via his website – a true polymath, he’s also a photographer, graphic artist and filmmaker in addition to hatter and basketball player – which would be great for business if there weren’t a few hurdles to clear.

One, he’s putting all hattery and other subsidiary activities aside during the NCAA tournament. Two, he’d have to clear any business activities through North Carolina’s compliance office to avoid breaking any NCAA rules. And three, he just can’t make that many hats.

“It could take me out of business, because that’s more hats than I can make,” Rush said. “If that happens, that’s going to be a big task. The most hats I’ve ever made was 24 in three weeks for the guys. I usually make about four or five a week. Back in high school, I never pushed numbers. I never tried to make a lot. I like to take time on the hats. I’m all about the details. A large-scale production like this, I don’t want to lose the details.”

That will come later. For now, after his turn in the spotlight, Rush has faded back into the background, which is typically where someone who has played a total of 28 minutes all season resides. That could change if the Tar Heels make it to the Final Four, which would be good news for the team and, potentially, bad news for Rush’s production line.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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