by Robbi Pickeral, GoHeels.com
Los Angeles Lakers should be tipping off against Washington tonight well after
the conclusion of his Tar Heels' game against Providence in the NCAA
But North Carolina's single-season assists leader has a plan for this and future NCAA games, just in case his and his college team's matchups overlap.
"One thing I did last year in Phoenix that I'll probably do again is I'll find one of the fans courtside who is keeping track on their phone, and just during timeouts, I'll have them update me on the score,'' Marshall said earlier this week. "Hey, I've got to keep track."
Active or injured, on the court or off, the Tar Heel pros tend to find a way to keep up with their alma mater, particularly this time of year.
NBAers who have games like Marshall seek updates the stands. Guys with off-nights tend to settle in with remotes. And the guys overseas?
They just sleep less.
"We're fortunate with the internet, apps on the iPad,'' said Sean May, the 2005 Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament who most recently played in France. "The last few years, I haven't missed a game. Practice the next day was probably more difficult because I stayed up so late. But I love it; I wouldn't miss it for anything ... especially in March."
It wasn't too long ago that Marshall, whose Tar Heels' 2012 run through the NCAA Tournament was stopped short by his fractured wrist, and May, whose '05 team gave coach Roy Williams his first national title, were making March memories. But watching their UNC successors play through the Madness, both said, makes them appreciate their experiences even more.
"I don't want to say that I took it for granted ...but you look at the UNC teams that came before you, and you just assume you're going to make the tournament. That's a part of the process of being at Carolina,'' Marshall said. "But realizing now that that not a lot of colleges go through that, that there are so many good players who never got to go through even one Selection Sunday or play in one NCAA tournament, you realize it is something very special ... and to be able to play for a school with such tradition is special."
And it links the Tar Heel generations.
All season long, thanks to texts and imessage, different players from different Tar Heel teams have shared the ups and downs of this UNC squad. Marshall often group-chats with John Henson, Harrison Barnes, P.J. Hairston and current Tar Heel Leslie McDonald. May often finds himself in a running dialogue of comments with Danny Green, Barnes, Marvin Williams and Wayne Ellington.
"It's not as much a real chat as something will happen in a [UNC] game, and it will be like, 'I can't believe this,' or 'Did you see that?'" May said. "Just little comments here and there."
The group even got a bit superstitious during this year's Duke-Carolina rivalry showdowns, trying to repeat the same comments and messages from Game One (which UNC won) to Game Two (which UNC didn't.)
"And sometimes, guys will chime in late,'' May said. "David Noel will wake up [in Europe], and he might have missed a game and he'll replay and he'll be like, 'Oh, my. I can't believe this at 4 minutes and 15 seconds,' and the chat will start all over again."
And the analysis. And the friendly comparisons to past teams.
May, who is back in the U.S. recovering from a broken foot, expects much the same tonight as his fellow pros find ways to cheer the current Tar Heels from their respective homes, hotel rooms and courts.
"I love watching this team,'' Marshall said. "I'm way proud of this team. They were extremely frustrating early on, but they've exceeded my expectations. ... And I can't wait to see what they do next."