NOTE: Journalism major Marcus Paige penned this exclusive column for GoHeels.com upon the news he'd been named a second-team All-America and had qualified to have his jersey honored in the Smith Center rafters after the completion of his college career.
by Marcus Paige
When you're a Carolina basketball player, you spend a lot of time alone on the Smith Center court, shooting late at night by yourself or getting some extra work in before a practice. On those days, I've always tried to stop and take a look up at the banners just to take in where I am and the magnitude of playing basketball at North Carolina.
I grew up a Tar Heel fan, and I used to see those banners when I watched Carolina games on television. When I came to Chapel Hill on my recruiting visit, I walked in, and my eyes were automatically drawn to the banners, to the players everyone has seen play in highlights, and the players who helped hang the championship banners at the other end of the Smith Center rafters. My visit was when I gained a true appreciation for how special those banners are to everyone associated with Carolina basketball.
I was on Twitter yesterday when I first found out I'd been selected to the Sporting News All-America second team. I didn't know if it was true or not, so I asked Matt Bowers, our sports information director.
The first person I contacted was my sister, Morgan. I texted her and said, "I think there's a chance my jersey might be going in the rafters. This might be the best day of my life." Then I called my dad. He was so excited. He told me how proud he was, but he also told me we have a lot left to do-both as a team and as an individual.
A little while later, I talked to Eric Hoots and Coach Williams about it, and it was Coach Williams who told me the selection qualified me to get my jersey in the rafters.
I haven't really had a chance to process what it means just yet. When we play pickup games in the summer, guys like Raymond Felton will talk some friendly trash and say that they set the rules until someone else gets their name in the rafters or hangs a championship banner. It's an honor that everyone is aware of, and having had a chance to meet some of the people whose names are up there, it's something for which they are all so appreciative. They are the ones who built what this program is about and why so many people across the country love Carolina basketball. I can't imagine being part of that group.
One of the craziest parts to me is that I know how much I looked up to Vince Carter when I was growing up. He's the reason I play basketball, and when I see his name up there, I think about all those games I watched him play and what a big influence he was on me. To know that I might have that kind of impact on another kid of the next generation is incredible. It makes me feel like I'm making a difference.
Last night, I was shooting by myself in the Smith Center. I had to stop and look up there. It blew me away to think that one day I will see my jersey hanging next to so many players who have had such an important impact on Carolina basketball.