By Adam Lucas
Luke Maye says the following statement without even a hint of irony: “I had a pretty eventful March and April.”
Oh, did you? You mean when you were sinking one of the most important shots in the history of North Carolina basketball, sending your team to the Final Four, and then playing on one of only six NCAA Tournament champion teams in the history of one of the nation's best programs?
Yes, that's a pretty eventful March and April.
But his spring didn't stop when he clipped his piece of the championship net in Phoenix. Exactly one week after Carolina beat Gonzaga, he was sitting in the basketball office describing his workout plan, which involved getting back in the weight room the very next day.
“You know you can take another week off,” Sean May told him. “Give your body a chance to rest. You don't have to get right back in there.”
You can probably guess what happened next: Maye was back in the weight room the next day, despite the advice of the 2005 Final Four Most Outstanding Player. He attributes much of his sophomore success to a hardworking summer of 2016, and wanted to start his 2017 offseason the same way.
“That's what I did last year, waiting a week and then getting back to it,” Maye says. “I'm a little bit superstitious, so I wanted to do the same thing this year. Jonas (Sahratian) is an unbelievable guy, and knowing I get to see him and work out with him every day gives us a lot of confidence.”
The South Regional MVP also built a lot of confidence during the season. He went into the summer of 2016 as largely an unknown. He goes into the summer of 2017 as the author of one of college basketball's signature moments of the season.
But his sophomore season was about more than just one shot. From 11 points against Kentucky in Las Vegas to his 15 rebounds against Florida State to his double-double against Butler in the South Regional semifinals, Maye proved this year he can contribute as a member of the rotation. He wants to make those contributions more consistently as a junior.
Last week, Maye met with Roy Williams for the regular player-coach pre-summer meeting. “He talked a lot about defense, shooting and trying to improve as an overall player,” Maye says. “We're going to be younger and more inexperienced next year. It's my job to help get the younger guys on track and show them what it takes. We want to try to do the small things every day to help us get better as individuals and as a team.”
For the Academic All-ACC selection, the spring wasn't just about basketball. The extended NCAA Tournament run meant Maye had plenty of schoolwork to monitor. As everyone saw, that meant showing up for 8 a.m. classes the morning after the win over the Wildcats. But as no one saw, it's also meant multiple very late nights trying to make sure he doesn't fall behind in any classes.
Geography was his toughest class this semester. His test in that course today will be his final spring 2017 exam.
“Geography was tough for me,” he says. “It's science, and I don't like science. My brain doesn't work that way, and I'm glad this will be my last science here. I've been lucky to have so many teachers who want the best for me. Time management has been tough this spring.”
That's partially because less of his time has belonged to him. Rare has been the meal in public when someone doesn't want a picture. He threw out the first pitch at a Carolina baseball game, then watched as a line formed for his autograph…while tennis legends Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf sat one row away, unbothered.
The levelheaded Maye is unsurprisingly serene about his hectic new life.
“I try to be respectful of everyone, even if I'm asking them if they could please wait until we finish eating,” he says. “It comes with the territory. I enjoy doing it, and I wouldn't have it any other way.”