By Adam Lucas
GREENVILLE—It’s the time of year when everyone is looking for new story ideas. That’s how Thursday’s media availability largely turned into the Shea and Seventh show.
Shea Rush is the newest media darling, largely due to a series of Instagram posts from Thursday night showing every Carolina player wearing a snazzy new fedora. Those hats are the product of Rush’s love of hatmaking. When the team goes out to dinner tonight, the entire roster—including the coaching staff—plans to wear their Rush-produced hat (look for photos on social media later this evening).
Rush began making hats in high school. “I really took time in making sure every hat fits the personality of the player,” he said. “It usually takes about a week per hat, but I can make multiple hats in that week.”
Rush’s preferred fabric is beaver fur, which he buys from a supplier in Michigan. There are three basic steps: steaming, ironing and using a hat block.
Although everyone wore their hat on the team flight Wednesday, a couple of individuals required some persuading.
“The most hesitant were Seventh, Isaiah and Justin,” Rush said. “Twelve guys had already committed and those three weren’t sure. I told them 12 guys already had them, so I would just go ahead and make them for them.”
He converted at least one skeptic.
“I’m not a hat person,” said Seventh Woods. “But I put it on yesterday and kind of fell in love.”
Rush’s creation for Roy Williams features a tan hat, a black bow (the strip of fabric around the crown of the hat), a Tar Heel leather strip, and a Carolina golf tee stuck in the bow.
Out of the Woods: As soon as the pairings were announced on Sunday, Williams turned to Columbia, S.C., native Seventh Woods. “The only guy who may get hit up harder than me for tickets,” he said, “is Seventh.”
Williams’ hometown of Asheville is just over an hour from Bon Secours Wellness Arena (locals call it “The Well”). Columbia, meanwhile, is about an hour and a half away. Woods fielded numerous interview requests during Thursday's media availability, catching up with numerous reporters who covered him during his prolific high school career.
Given the proximity, Woods actually wasn’t hit overly hard for tickets.
“I ended up with nine tickets,” he said. “So I only needed three more than the six we all get.”
Each player gets six tickets to NCAA Tournament games.
Briefly: Woods was part of annual Tar Heel tradition. As Carolina took the floor on Thursday afternoon for the team’s open practice, they were led by freshmen Woods, Tony Bradley and Brandon Robinson—and no one else. Williams annually persuades the upperclassmen to trick the rookies into running out alone, and this year’s group of freshmen were some of the most fooled in recent memory. They made it all the way to the opposite foul line before turning around with a confused expression, finding their teammates still standing in the tunnel, cackling…
Scouting report from Texas Southern’s Demontrae Jefferson on how to beat Carolina: “Stops. Defense wins games. If we can stop them or contain them or stop them from rebounding 40 percent of the shots they do and get a little bit uncomfortable and take a couple players out of the game, I think we can come out of here with a W.”…
Justin Jackson said he’s had productive conversations with Williams this week. “I sat with Coach in his office and talked to him a little bit,” Jackson said. “My confidence isn’t gone. It was four games that I have not shot the ball well. That’s all it is. For me, I’m still going to shoot the ball the same way, still going to be aggressive, still going to do everything I’ve been doing all year. It’s not like all of a sudden the world is ending. And I got in the gym a bunch after the ACC Tournament…Talking to him, he wanted to reiterate that he still has the same confidence in me.”