The list of participating players bore striking similarity to All-ACC lists of years past. Carolina coach Phil Ford's starting five included Jeff McInnis and Shammond Williams in the backcourt and a front line of Stackhouse, Antawn Jamison, and Brendan Haywood, who led all Tar Heels with 18 points and 14 rebounds. The bench spanned the generations of the Carolina family, from a sprightly Walter Davis and still-smooth Sam Perkins to 1993 NCAA MVP Donald Williams to Ed Cota, Joseph Forte, and Jason Capel.
They matched up against past stars like N.C. State's Chucky Brown and Anthony Grundy and Maryland grads Steve Blake and Chris Wilcox. Duke's Dahntay Jones received the lion's share of the crowd's playful hostility, however, spurred on by the evening's color commentator--and "Best Dressed" nominee--Kenny Smith.
The game featured the expected array of behind-the-back passes, crossover moves, jumpers, and dunks. For a short period in the second quarter, the game was even competitive, as the ACC All-Stars closed to within three points, 56-53, at halftime. Carolina quickly reasserted its control in the third quarter, however, and the Tar Heel alumni never trailed, much to the delight of the partisan crowd.
While the game was entertaining, however, much of the action took place off the court. A pre-game autograph session drew a long line of fans eager to fill t-shirts and basketballs with as many signatures as possible. Current Tar Heels including Sean May, Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton, and Jawad Williams also greeted fans around the Smith Center, and the event took on the feeling of a long-overdue family reunion, with any suggestion of tension in the Carolina program now a distant memory.
Most importantly, the game and surrounding activities benefited a cause close to Stackhouse's heart, the American Diabetes Association. Proceeds from ticket sales and merchandise were to go the ADA, and organizers also presented a number of scholarships at halftime to students pursuing medical degrees and research. Stackhouse has lost two family members to diabetes, and his parents also live with the disease. So he was particularly pleased by the success of the event, which he co-organized with Carolina Pros, an organization founded by fellow alums Rick Fox and King Rice, both of whom enjoyed the game in street clothes from the Carolina bench.
"With the camaraderie we have, it's great to come back and have the game," said Stackhouse. "But a lot of people are affected by the disease of diabetes, and that's the reason we're here, to fight that battle." And he hopes the event will continue to bring attention to that fight for many years to come. "We'd like to sell it out," he said. "It's still a process, and we're just going to try and continue to get the word out."
With so many friends in Carolina blue eager to spread the word and return home for a weekend of basketball, the odds are good that Stackhouse will get his wish.