CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- An injury ended North Carolina quarterback Kanler Coker's football career, but it has enabled him to realize his dream of becoming a Tar Heel basketball player.
The school announced on Tuesday that Coker, a junior, had been added to the roster for the 2015-16 season. He played with the team throughout the summer and has been participating in preseason conditioning in recent weeks.
Coker saw limited action on the football team, appearing in games in 2013 and 2014, prior to suffering a career-ending elbow injury. Prior to enrolling at UNC, he told Inside Carolina that he'd been raised a Tar Heel basketball fan and played guard on his Flowery Branch (Ga.) High School team.
"While most babies sleep with a stuffed animal in their crib, I actually slept with a Michael Jordan basketball," he said in 2012. "Before I could even say "Michael Jordan" I just loved Michael Jordan. Since he went to Carolina, I liked Carolina. Even when I was younger, I always had Carolina stuff. I liked the school, but I liked Carolina because of basketball. But if I saw them playing football, I'd have my Carolina stuff on.
"But I didn't miss a Carolina basketball game."
And now he'll have a front row seat.
“I found out I was on the basketball team before one of their summer practices,” Coker said in a statement released by the school. “Coach (Roy) Williams pulled me aside and told me he wanted to have me on the team. Playing basketball here is something I’d always dreamed about, so it was almost like a moment I couldn’t explain. I immediately thought about calling my parents. My little brother, Keaton, passed away from brain cancer last year, so he’s been on my mind the whole time I’ve been working for this goal. It was a really emotional moment for me."
Coker has surrendered his football scholarship and taken on a walk-on status on the basketball team.
“I met Kanler five years ago when football was recruiting him and he said that he wanted to play basketball if possible,” Roy Williams said in a statement. “After an injury ended his football career, Coach (Larry) Fedora contacted me and asked if I was interested in giving him a look. So he played a lot of pickup with the guys and participated in our four summer practices. I told him after those practices that he had made the team.
“We don’t have a scholarship available, so to be on the basketball team, Kanler has to go off the football scholarship and pay his own way. Kanler talked to his parents after I offered him a spot on the team and he came back and said, ‘Yes, I want to be part of the basketball program.’ That certainly says a lot about the youngster’s love of basketball and desire to be a member of our team.”