Kickin' in with the Heels at N. Lenoir
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on April 7, 2005 1:58 PM
LAGRANGE -- A line stretching well outside out of North Lenoir's Wooten Gymnasium usually means the Hawks are getting ready to face archrivals Kinston or South Lenoir.
Wednesday night the Wheat Swamp gymnasium was packed to capacity for another reason -- a handful of national championship Tar Heels were in town for the first of UNC's Senior Tour events.
North Carolina seniors Melvin Scott, C.J. Hooker and Charlie Everett, along with 2000 graduate Will Johnson and a couple of friends of the team, squared off against a mixture of Lenoir County athletes, students and local media.
Nearly 1,500 fans, young and old and mostly wearing baby blue, came to the event. Scott and the rest of the players signed countless autographs before and after the game that ended in a 114-73 blowout by the Tar Heel representatives.
"This is what it's all about," Scott said. "I've never been to this part of the state, but I've enjoyed it. These fans are great. It's been about four or five years since I've been in a high school gym like this."
"Stuff like this reminds of me that we did something special."
The game may have been a rout, but it never lacked entertaining play by both teams. Scott knocked down plenty of deep, 3-pointers, while he and Hooker took to the air for numerous slam dunks and alley-oops.
"Coach (Roy) Williams has us trained this way," Hooker said. "I know this was a charity event, but when you are used to doing something over-and-over, it's like second nature."
On the other end, High Point University signee and North Lenoir senior Justin Dunn posted his fair share of spectacular throw-downs as well. Early in the third period, Dunn dunked on three-straight possessions.
He wasn't finished. At the two minute mark of the fourth, Dunn tossed a pass to himself off of the backboard, then flushed home a right-handed jam -- sending the crowd into a frenzy. For Dunn, it marked the final time he could show off his skills in front of a faithful home crowd.
"I just wanted to come out and have fun," Dunn said. "I knew these guys were going to blow us out, but I wanted to come out and enjoy the experience. I wanted to show the crowd some things for one last time."
The six-foot-three guard not only amazed the Hawk fans, he also left an impression on Hooker and his teammates.
"He's very athletic and he's patient on offense, which is good. With good coaching, he could be someone to watch for in the near future," Hooker said of Dunn.
Gerald Garner, North Lenoir's assistant athletic director, organized the Senior Tour event for the third time in La Grange and the 13th overall at various locations. Ticket sales particularly sky-rocketed following the Tar Heels' win over Illinois in the national championship game on Monday.
"It's always been a good drawing card, because there are so many Carolina fans," Garner said. "I started on it early, and had no idea they would win the national championship.
"The phone has rung off the hook. I got about an hour of sleep last night and got bombarded. But, it's a good bombardment."
A majority of the proceeds, which also includes memorabilia sales at the event, go to the Carolina players. The rest of the money, including concessions, benefits North Lenoir athletics.
Jawad Williams and Jackie Manuel, also North Carolina seniors, were also scheduled to attend the event, but remained in Chapel Hill. If Sean May and Raymond Felton decide to stay at North Carolina and not enter the NBA draft, the 2006 edition of this event looks especially appealing as well.
"This is the largest of these events that I've been a part of. But, with the lineup they have as seniors next year, it could be even more." Garner said. "They are great ambassadors to the university. It brings big time basketball to our mecca of basketball in Lenoir County with all the tradition we have."
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