Feature: A Look Back UNC vs Duke


With great pleasure I’d like to introduce you to Keeping It Heel’s new staff writer Monica BiddixMonica is a proud UNC alumnus from the class of 2002.  In her first article with keeping it heel Monica takes a look back to last season’s match up against Duke in the ACC Tournament and offers her perspective on the ensuing controversy in the second part of our ongoing series A Look Back.  

Well there is little joy in Tar Heels nation as the Blue Devils from Durham exposed and exploited every weakness of my beloved basketball team this afternoon. I’m not that bummed, after making it to the Tournament finals while only having the lead about 7 out of the 80 minutes played in the tourney. Luck can only get one so far. Besides the last three times that UNC has won it all, they failed to win the ACC Tournament. Better to have a winning streak broken before the Big Dance than during.

The meetings between the teams from Durham and Chapel Hill have historically been dubbed “the Battle for Tobacco Road” referring to the state’s historic tobacco farming industry that helped to build both universities. More recently, it has been referred to as “the Battle of the Blues”. However, in the past couple of days, former Michigan player and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose has stirred up a hornet’s nest criticizing Duke not for the color of their jerseys but the color of the players wearing them. Rose, who grew up in the inner-city, confessed that he always hated Duke because they only recruited white players and blacks who came from polished families and incurred the label, “Uncle Toms”.

First of all, Rose should never have uttered the term, “Uncle Tom”. It makes him look like someone who thinks all educated and affluent African Americans are somehow white men’s lackeys. I do not think Rose believes that Spike Lee, Colin Powell and the President of the United States are Uncle Toms. Also using a term that dates back to the institution of slavery in a college basketball context is absurd and trivializes the struggles of his ancestors. I can understand though, as a fellow Duke Hater, sometimes the animosity towards and detestation of Duke Basketball can become so venomous that thoughtless and fallacious statements spew forth in a heat of passion.

This was why I waited a couple of days before I decided to touch on the subject. After reading others’ comments on the story, I would like to address a couple of issues. First of all, people are under the gross misconception that Duke basketball players are in the same intellectual bracket as their fellow students. This is simply not true. Just last month, I had someone say to me that he bet everyone in a Duke uniform scored over 1400 on their SATs. I about fell out of my chair. I looked it up and from what I can tell the average SAT score for a Duke Basketball player was around 1100. The truth is Duke Athletes only have to meet the academic standards imposed by the ACC, which incidentally is slightly higher than the NCAA’s. This issue came to a head in 1989, when Coach Dean Smith noticed a sign in the Duke stands with the words, “J.R. Can’t Read”. This was one of the Cameron Crazies “clever” digs at UNC’s African American, All American J.R. Reid. Coach Smith, who integrated ACC basketball with his recruitment of Charlie Scott, took offense. Smith, since he had also recruited a number of players on Duke’s team publicly announced after the incident that J.R. Reid and fellow Tar Heel Scott Williams (also African American) combined SAT scores were higher than Duke’s white stand-outs Danny Ferry and Christian Laettner. See, even Coach Smith has lost his cool in response to the arrogance of the program and its fans, but nonetheless you catch my drift.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski is a lot of things, but he is not racist. Yet he does recruit a good deal of white players and black players from well-to-do families. However, this is not due to racism but perhaps to equally abhorrent character flaws, arrogance and selfishness. Pretty soon, Coach K will become the all-time winningest coach in college basketball history, and I must say it will be well-deserved because that’s what Mike does best, winning no matter what. Instead of recruiting talented black kids from the inner cities, Mike recruits black players from upper-class families whose fathers have often played professional sports. Think Grant Hill, Seth Curry, Nolan Smith and Gerald Henderson. He does this not because these players are a traitor to their race but because he has a better chance of keeping them around four years.

Lemme give you a real-life scenario 8 miles down the road. In 2005, after winning the National Championship, UNC’s center Sean May tried to convince fellow teammates Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants to stay for their senior year instead of entering the NBA draft. So the story goes, Felton, an African American who came from a rural, lower-class family in Latta, SC explained to May, also black, that he had to go pro because he was not like him. Unlike Felton, May came from a privileged household where his father had enjoyed a semi-successful NBA career. Another example is Tyler Hansborough, who has been one of the few Heels who stayed for four years despite being named the Naismith Player of the Year after his Junior season. So, how was Hansborough different from his fellow teammates, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Brandan Wright who all departed prematurely? It wasn’t the color of their skin that made them so different as the amount of money in their families’ bank accounts. Hansborough’s dad is a successful orthopedic surgeon in Poplar Bluff, MO whose financial future did not depend on his son’s NBA draft prospects.

This is exactly why you will never see a Duke player, white or black, who has a father in prison or a family on welfare. Coach K wants his players to give him wins, and the best way to do so is to recruit kids who are more likely to stay all four years. I encourage one to look at the number of players UNC has lost early to the draft, and they have had to endure sub-par seasons as a result last season for example. Coach K for his own self-interests does not want to endure a sub-par season which is why he doesn’t help his players out with NBA scouting and has even been accused of underestimating players’ draft projections. If you don’t believe me, ask Chris Carrawell, William Avery or Chris Burgess.

So, Jalen Rose, you were a little off the mark. Does Coach K overwhelmingly recruit white kids from elite prep schools and black players descended from NBA veterans? Absolutely. Does he do this because he is racist? Absolutely not. Coach K would recruit a black, homosexual, Romanian midget living in the middle of Harlem if his parents had money and he could play basketball. One thing you will always be able to say about Coach Dean Smith is that he always put his players first, and that is a Tar Heel tradition remains today. Coach K does win. He wins a lot. He beat my team today. Coach K is an smarmy, self-centered, hateful, foul-mouthed elitist who still dyes his hair at age 64. But, he’s not a racist.

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