The celebration of Maye Day has stretched for around 48 hours straight now at the University of North Carolina. Forward Luke Maye’s shot to beat Kentucky with less than one second left continues to thrust the sophomore reserve from Huntersville into the role of unlikely celebrity as the Tar Heels head to the Final Four for the second year in a row.
So, to feed the suddenly insatiable appetite for more about “Cool Hand Luke,” here are three new stories about him.
1. The Ovation.
Slightly more than 12 hours after he hit the game-winning jumper in Memphis, Maye showed up for his 8 a.m. class on campus – Business 101, which is financial accounting.
“I walked in and kind of looked across the room,” Maye said. “One person started clapping and then it kind of spread.”
Ultimately, Maye received a standing ovation in the class of UNC business professor C.J. Skender – a former scholarship basketball player himself at Lehigh who also has a degree from Duke and has been teaching since 1979.
The moment was captured by one enterprising student in a video that quickly went viral. Maye said it was “just a blast.”
Said Skender in an email he sent to me Tuesday when I asked him to describe what happened: “Luke is a wonderful young man. So very humble. So very cerebral. ... I started with the morning announcements, and in from my left walks Luke Maye. He goes to sit down in his usual seat on the front row and all of a sudden the students started clapping. And then they started standing. It lasted at least 60 seconds. My body was covered with goose flesh. It was undoubtedly the coolest thing in a classroom I have ever been a part of.”
It hasn’t all been fun and games. After that standing ovation, Maye had to buckle down for a lesson in “absorption and direct costing,” Skender said. Then Maye had two exams Tuesday and was trying to stay ahead of his schoolwork in advance of the Tar Heels’ trip to Arizona.
“My Mom (Aimee Maye) was always more focused on what I got on my exam than what people are saying about the game,” said Maye, who was an honor student at Hough High in Cornelius. “That’s just how I’ve been raised.”
2. The Recruitment.
Much misinformation has been spread over Maye being a North Carolina “walk-on,” although in fact he has been a scholarship player at UNC since the first day he showed up on campus. However, Maye did commit to UNC in the fall of 2014 when coach Roy Williams told him and his family that he could only guarantee a scholarship for the final three years of his UNC career but not necessarily the first.
To back up a bit, Williams had admired Luke’s father, Mark – a former UNC quarterback in the 1980s whose career was short-circuited by injuries – when Mark played for the Tar Heels. The two had struck up a friendship. Luke Maye went to UNC basketball camps for several years, and before his sophomore season Williams said he told Mark Maye: “I think he’s got a chance to play, perhaps, at this level.”
Still, Williams was recruiting other players much harder. He held off on awarding Maye a freshman-year scholarship until May 2015, shortly before Maye graduated from Hough.
Said Williams Tuesday: “I can’t remember who, but I was holding the scholarship for someone else. ... Maybe it was more than one guy.”
Anyway, those guys didn’t come, and so Williams had the scholarship to give. That’s when he decided to tease Maye by calling him and telling him about the first-year scholarship in a roundabout way.
Said Williams of Maye: “I called him and told him: ‘I want you to do me a favor. Go to your mom and dad and tell them you want a thousand dollars to go take your buddies to Myrtle Beach and blow it this weekend.’”
Maye went deathly silent, Williams said. Then the player said: “Coach, I don’t think I can do that.”
Williams laughed and said: “They’ll look at you like you’re crazy. Then you say, ‘Coach Williams just called me and offered me the scholarship, and for an in-state student that’s worth $25,000 (a year).’ So the least they can do is give you a thousand. You’re saving them $24,000.”
Maye decided not to break the news to his parents in quite that way. He was asked Tuesday what he would do if he actually had to blow a thousand dollars at the beach.
“I’d probably take my family down there,” Maye said. “And we love playing Putt-Putt, so I’d spend a lot of it on Putt-Putt.”
3. The Laettner tweet.
Maye’s shot even reached across the Tobacco Road aisle, as Duke legend Christian Laettner took the time to praise Maye via Twitter on Monday. Also commenting on the fact that Maye wears the No. 32 that Laettner also wore for the Blue Devils, Laettner tweeted: “Luke my son. ... May the force of the #32 be with you.”
Maye didn’t see it until a teammate sent the tweet out via the UNC basketball text-messaging group and then pronounced it “pretty cool.”
Williams thought so, too, saying of Laettner’s message: “If I see him, I’ll tell him thank you.”
It has all been something of a whirlwind for Maye. He said he was being frequently stopped on campus and being asked to pose for pictures. Random students sometimes yell “Great shot!” as he walks by The Pit.
Maye has been telling his teammates: “Let’s just focus on Oregon.” That is a good idea, since Oregon is who the Tar Heels play Saturday.
Or, as Williams noted: “If we don’t beat freakin’ Oregon, we’re out there in an Uber trying to get our butts back to Chapel Hill.”
But Maye’s teammates, sensing that he doesn’t really want to talk about the shot that much anymore, are having none of that quite yet.
Justin Jackson, North Carolina’s first-team All-American who has been happily and thoroughly overshadowed the past few days because of the shot, said of Maye: “Yeah, I mean he’s big-time here! I feel like we need some security around campus! We make fun of him all the time – that’s just what we do. But deep down, we’re all extremely happy and proud of him.”