— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 27, 2017
Marcus Paige knows exactly what Malik Monk feels like, after UNC’s Luke Maye buried the go ahead jumper with .3 seconds left to push the Tar Heels to victory Sunday. Just last year, Villanova’s Kris Jenkins similarly ripped out the Carolina faithful’s hearts at the buzzer in the championship game. Carolina was on a path to repeat history, after Kentucky’s Monk hit an improbable contested three with mere moments remaining. Carolina needed a big time play from a big time player.
Justin Jackson? Joel Berry? Stillman White? Dave from section 219? All of them would have been more likely than this guy.
Sophomore preferred walk on Luke Maye. Maye, who in last year’s tournament run played just 4 minutes, tallying one point. Luke Maye, who goes through a whole package of weed whacker line a week just to keep his eye brows trimmed.
There could not be a more unlikely hero for the Tar Heels. Despite the significance of the play, and boy was it, do not let UNC fans fool you, and to the UNC fan, do not fool yourself. You did not like Luke Maye until yesterday. You didn’t. Before this weekend, where Maye exploded for 33 points across two games, setting his career high mark twice, you yelled at your TV every time he was on the court. You saw the player who pulled stuff like this every chance he had.
How in the hell did Luke Maye block himself pic.twitter.com/C3bpEFMOHh
— Granny Louise (@countrygurlkels) December 22, 2016
Luke Maye is the player who could come on the court and make one great play, and follow it with four terrible ones. He is the player who makes you yell “NOOOO!” when he throws up a shot, but then he miraculously buries it. That miracle came yesterday.
The legend of Luke Maye started long ago. Just a three star recruit, Maye held offers from Davidson, UNC Charlotte, and Clemson. UNC was always his dream school, and Maye eventually earned a preferred walk on spot from Roy Williams. Maye comes from a family of athletes, his father a former UNC quarterback, and his mother an all-county high school basketball player in Mecklenburg county. He is the oldest of four brothers, all around the same size as Luke, who stands at 6-8 and a solid 235. His other brothers are also athletes, standout pitchers and so on. Basically, there is something in the water out in his hometown of Huntersville, North Carolina.
Or maybe it’s all the K&W. Do you remember K&W? If you haven’t seen one in a while, blame the Maye family. The story has floated around and since been confirmed by Mark Maye himself that the Maye family would frequent the K&W Cafeteria in their hometown, most likely leaving a trail of absolute carnage in their wake. Poor Mrs. Maye, can you imagine having to feed four teenage boys large enough to have to duck through every doorway? Nope, round up the fam into the Maye Mobile and lead them to the human trough that is K&W. Enough fried chicken, pot pie, and mac and cheese to kill Andy Reid.
All jokes aside, this was the pinnacle of Luke Mayes career, Maye himself called it the “number one accomplishment” of his life. He’s not wrong, and you have to love the moment. A player who frustrated his own fan base beyond belief, averaged just 5.8 points per game in 14 minutes of action, instantly became a legend. That is what the NCAA tournament will do. It will take the most unlikely players, the no names, and immediately places them into basketball folklore. Luke Maye will never do anything as big as that ever again. Barring some meteoric rise in talent, his basketball days are over after he leaves UNC. But none of that matters. None of that matters at all. Because Luke Maye will forever be remembered for that shot, will never have to pay for a meal on Franklin Street again, and will always be a Carolina legend.
Oh, and he is definitely getting his jersey retired. What’s one more in the sea of 97 jerseys in those rafters.
follow Sam on twitter @SamAvolis