Scott Fowler

10 things you don’t know about UNC’s Luke Maye

Ten things you did not know about Luke Maye, who is from Huntersville and became the unlikely buzzer-beating star of North Carolina’s dramatic 75-73 win over Kentucky Sunday night to send UNC to the Final Four:

1. Luke Maye and Sindarius Thornwell, the South Carolina star who has also made the Final Four as part of the “Sin-derella” Gamecocks, were once teammates on Team United Hoops – a Charlotte-based travel basketball team. The two could meet in an all-Carolina national final on Monday, April 3.

2. On Feb. 17, Roy Williams and I sat alone for an interview about several subjects in a corner of the Smith Center. The coach said this about Maye: “He’s going to get better. His ability to shoot the ball is going to become more important to him.”

Yeah, that ability to shoot the ball did sort of come in handy on a shot that came from the same side of the floor and roughly the same distance as Michael Jordan’s dagger in 1982 to win the national championship. About all that was missing was Maye didn’t stick out his tongue like Jordan did. Maye wears a huge white mouthguard, so probably best that didn’t happen.

3. Maye is a big Carolina Panthers fan and his family has had season tickets for years, which means he is one of the few people in America to both give and receive the “Luuuuuuuke” cheer.

“Kuechly gives his all on every play,” Maye once told me, speaking of the Panthers linebacker, “which is what I try to do as well.”

4. You probably know that Mark Maye, Luke’s father, was a quarterback for North Carolina who had NFL promise before his career was derailed by injury. You may not know that his mother, Aimee (Sockwell) Maye, was a standout basketball player at West Charlotte and was the Mecklenburg County girls’ player of the year as a senior. She chose not to play basketball in college, but could have.

5. Luke Maye is the oldest of Mark and Aimee’s four strapping sons – all of whom are fairly near in size to the 6-8, 235-pound Maye. “When they walk in, I just think of the grocery bill,” Williams said.

The second-oldest Maye son, Cole, is now a freshman pitcher for the University of Florida. He has made two brief appearances for the Gators so far in 2017 and has yet to allow a run. Beau, the third son, is a 6-foot-8 freshman at Hough High in Cornelius (where all four Maye boys have attended or will attend) and who played JV basketball this past season. Drake, who is in eighth grade, hopes to play football, basketball and baseball when he gets to high school, like his father did.

Incidentally, Mark Maye was all-state at Charlotte’s Independence High in all three sports, and he is also the anti-LaVar Ball in terms of bragging on his sons. You will rarely find someone more polite than Mark, which is a characteristic he passed along to Luke (as well as a penchant for being an excellent student).

6. Mark Maye and Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula were two of the most highly sought high school quarterbacks in America in their senior year of 1982. When they ended up visiting some colleges at the same time during the recruiting period, they began a friendship that continues today.

7. OK, was Luke Maye truly a UNC “walk-on” as so many stories about him now claim?

No. At one time that might have been the case, but only for his first season, and it never actually happened.

Luke Maye was not nearly as highly recruited in basketball as his father was in football in the early 1980s, but Luke was a three-star recruit who did get offered scholarships by Davidson, Charlotte and Clemson among others. But UNC was his dream school. He originally committed to the Tar Heels without the promise of a scholarship, knowing he might need to pay his way and be a “preferred walk-on” during his first season. Williams was eventually able to award him a scholarship just before Maye’s senior year at Hough ended, so Luke Maye has never actually paid for a day of college in his life.

Here was what Williams said the day he signed Maye to that scholarship in May 2015: “I am ecstatic to have Luke and his family join our basketball family. ... Luke has been extremely loyal to our university. He committed last fall, but did not sign scholarship papers in the early signing period because he was willing to see if we needed that scholarship. Every school in the country had the opportunity to continue to recruit him, but he remained loyal and signed his National Letter of Intent last week. It was one of the most pleasant recruiting experiences I have ever gone through. I was thrilled to call Luke and his parents and tell them that not only were we going to be able to pay for his education for three years, but for this coming year (Maye’s freshman year) as well.”

8. In the 2016 NCAA tournament, Luke Maye was a barely-used freshman. In the Tar Heels’ six NCAA tourney games, he scored a total of one point and played a total of less than four minutes. He did not play at all in the 2016 national final against Villanova.

This weekend alone, against Butler on Friday and Kentucky on Sunday, Maye scored a total of 33 points while posting back-to-back career highs and sank the 18-foot jumper from the left side that sank Kentucky – a shot that in so many ways was similar to the one that Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit to beat UNC in that 2016 final.

9. Although Maye’s primary sport has always been basketball, he did play four years of first base and outfield for Hough.

10. There used to be a K&W Cafeteria in Cornelius that my family went to frequently. We are a family of six and people would cringe sometimes when we got in line. But one night from way across the room I saw another family of six just blowing us away in terms of sheer number of discarded dishes.

It took me about 10 minutes to realize it was the Mayes.

That K&W closed down not too long after that meal, and I mentioned that anecdote in a piece I wrote about Luke Maye last month.

When Mark saw the story, he texted back a nice note, plus five more words: “The Mayes miss that K&W.”

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