Luke Maye signed on to play for the University of North Carolina on Nov. 11, 2014. Despite receiving scholarship offers from schools including Notre Dame, Gonzaga, and Davidson, Maye agreed to be a preferred walk-on at UNC.
Expectations were low heading into Maye’s freshman year, as Carolina was loaded with veteran post players equipped to make a title run. The 6’8″ forward never really saw the court until deep into ACC play. In limited minutes, Maye made many head scratching mistakes, getting on the nerves of Tar Heel fans.
I remember watching the Carolina-UVA game with some friends, and after several mistakes made by Maye, they just let him have it. “Who is No. 32, he’s trash.” “Why did UNC get Luke Maye?” “I hope he transfers, he’s awful.” ” I hate Luke Maye.”
In spite of the frustrating mistakes, I began to root for Maye, and he became one of my favorite players on the team.
Maye did not play much during Carolina’s tournament run, but he did provide us with this wonderful celebration during UNC’s Elite Eight win over Notre Dame.
Expectations were again low for Maye at the beginning of his Sophomore season. He lived up to the short expectations early on, looking like his Freshman year self. That changed when UNC traveled to Las Vegas to take on top-ranked Kentucky.
Maye came off the bench late in the second half looking to provide a spark for Carolina, and he did just that. The Huntersville, NC native poured in 11 points, shifting the momentum in favor of the Tar Heels. While Carolina lost the game ultimately, it would not have been close if not for Maye.
Throughout ACC play, the Heels were rolling, and Maye had established himself as a quality role player, averaging five points and four rebounds off the bench. While it was nice to see Maye’s improvement, we hadn’t seen his true potential until the NCAA tournament. The Kentucky game is the one everyone will remember, but Maye was outstanding against Butler as well. Maye contributed 16 points and 12 rebounds as UNC steamrolled the Bulldogs.
Then came the rematch with Kentucky. UNC was the better team, but it had a lot of things going against it, namely point guard Joel Berry’s ankle injury. Maye stepped up, and played the game of his life. He was terrific the entire contest, scoring 17 points, grabbing three boards, and cashing in two assists. His performance went beyond the boxscore, though. Maye made several key plays late, including a dive for a loose ball and a huge outlet pass ahead to Justin Jackson for an easy layup.
As great as Maye was all game, nothing could top what he did next. Seconds after Kentucky frosh Malik Monk hit a seemingly impossible jumper to tie the game, forward Theo Pinson found Maye for a deep jump shot to win the game. It will go down as one of the greatest shots in the history of Carolina basketball.
Despite the history he had already made, Maye wasn’t completely satisfied yet. He wanted to be remembered for more than just “the shot”.
“Coach talked to me a little bit in my end-of-year meeting just about making sure I continue to work hard.” Maye said. “I want to be remembered for my junior year, my Senior year, being a good teammate, just bigger things that will carry a lot more weight in the long run. I want to be remembered for more than just one shot.”
This offseason, Maye has done everything he can to prepare himself for an increased role. According to Williams, he has worked harder than any other player on the team.
“Luke is extremely confident right now, and he should be.” the Hall of Fame coach said. “I mean, he wins every sprint, wins every 12-minute run, he wins the mile, he prepares himself in the top five percent of any player I’ve ever coached.”
Maye’s Junior season is underway, and so far the preparation is paying off. In Carolina’s season opener against Northern Iowa, Maye set his career high in scoring with 26 points, and added 10 rebounds as well. On Monday, Maye was named ACC co-player of the week for his performance.
Maye’s rise to stardom has been great to watch, and there is not a more deserving player.
Maye is an outstanding student, as well as an outstanding person. Last year he was named to the ACC all-academic team for the second straight season. He even showed up for an 8 a.m. class the day after sinking the game winner vs Kentucky.
Pinson has noticed how Maye has reacted to the fame he gained from “the shot”. He’ll talk to anybody, he’ll talk to a brick wall. He’s not the type of guy to be like ‘No, I can’t sign autographs. ‘ He tries to sign everyone’s autographs because he understands you don’t get this time back and he’s a celebrity.”
In the college basketball world that exists today, it is refreshing to see a player with the character and work ethic of Maye experience the type of success that he is having.
If the past is any indication, Maye will only continue to get better, and no one should try to limit his ceiling. Luke Maye will go as far as he wants, and that’s great news for Roy Williams and North Carolina.
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