Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina

Shea Rush: 'UNC's My Dream'

After accepting a UNC Basketball preferred walk-on spot on Sunday, Shea Rush discusses becoming a Tar Heel.


How did the interest in potentially walking on at North Carolina come about?

Since I was little, North Carolina’s been my dream school. Basically since Coach Williams left Kansas and went out there. That’s when I fell in love with UNC. I’ve always cheered for them, rooted for them and dreamed of being able to go there and play.

As I grew older, I started going to the camps. I was a three-year camper at Coach Williams’s camp. I hadn’t really developed as a player and I wasn’t where I needed to be. I kept working hard and once high school started, I was getting some looks and all that, but UNC is my dream. About six months ago I walked down to my head coach’s office…Billy Thomas, he played for Coach Williams. I told him, ‘look North Carolina’s my dream and if that means walking on to be a part of the team that’s something I’m interested in because that’s where I want to be.’

He called (assistant coach) C.B. McGrath and they talked it over on their end and thought it was a great idea. They’ve seen me play over the summers and knew me as a person. They told me to apply early-action to UNC. They took a look at my grades and were very impressed and thought this had a chance of working out. I got admitted, so they were real excited. Coach McGrath came to a game the day after I got admitted and then I came out here on an unofficial, and it just feels like home. It’s absolutely perfect out there.

When did you get admitted?

It was a Thursday. I believe it was Jan. 28. We were in contact with UNC and in correspondence talking, but we couldn’t make any movement until that decision came in.

What were your feelings when you found out you were admitted?

That was something that I’ll never forget. It was a lot of emotion all at once. A lot of pressure just kind of released and I’ve been really nervous about it and hoping I get admitted, but then also a bunch of excitement because this was a dream come true. My family was really excited for me. Coach McGrath and Coach Williams were also ecstatic. Most all, the community at Barstow, my high school, they were so excited. I actually found out while I was at school. My coach shed a tear because he knew how much I wanted it, and how much I wanted to go there. The athletic director at our school and all the assistants, everyone was there, it was just a really happy moment to share with all the people who’ve helped me get to the next level.

What was Coach Williams’s reaction when you told him today?

He was thrilled. He said he was excited to have me, because what he looks for most in a player is character. He said he definitely felt like I had that positive character that he looks for in a player. When I told him this is where I want to go, he was very excited. He mentioned that he’s always felt a connection to me since I was born, and I’ve kind of always felt that same thing with him. To have this finalized just feels special. It feels right.

Did the staff discuss the potential to receive a scholarship in the future?

It’s always a possibility. If things go well and I work hard, then it’s definitely (possible) down the road. But right now, I’m just happy to have the situation that I do. For sure, I’m definitely going to be working as hard as I can to achieve that scholarship. I had a chance to play with Luke (Maye) some at (UNC ) camps as well. I played with him and I’d love to be able to follow in his footsteps along those lines.

What’s the reaction been like from your dad and your uncles?

They’re just absolutely thrilled. My dad (Jaron) has been super supportive of me throughout this whole journey. If I didn’t play basketball at all, he’d still be just as proud of me as he is today. To have him there and to have such a great basketball mind at my side at all times is something I’ve been really thankful for. They’re really excited that the Rush dynasty reigns on, is what they said. I know Brandon (Rush) and Kareem (Rush) both texted me because they’re excited. They’re getting to see the next generation and I’m looking forward to continuing it.

For those who haven’t seen you play, what type of player are you?

My strengths are getting to the cup. I’ve got very long strides and a quick first step, so I can beat a man off the dribble and finish strong. A lot of people like to call it a slasher. But what I pride myself most on, more than anything else, is defense. I like to consider myself a great defender. I’m a defensive minded player. If we get stops then the offense will come. That’s definitely what I like. If I was labeled as something, then I’d like to be labeled as a defensive player. I feel like I’m very good in transition and North Carolina plays a great transition game and I feel like that’s a great fit, because what I do best is get out and run.

What’s your first Carolina basketball memory?

My most important one and it really set my love for North Carolina to the next level… I came for camp and James Michael McAdoo was the referee for our court. Before I came to camp, I looked up to him as a player and watched him on TV. But at camp, I got to meet him and really interact with him. That was really special. That was the closest I’ve ever been to being a part of North Carolina. I will always cherish that. I still text him occasionally. To be able to carry that relationship on has been great.

How does it feel to have your dream come true?

It feels like a blessing, to be able to take a dream, turn it into a goal and then have it come true, it’s an absolute blessing. I’m excited to spend my next four years with the North Carolina family.

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