Jason Capel had a sparkle in his eyes as he waited his turn in Carmichael Auditorium Friday night. It was his moment and he shared it with Kris Lang.
The two seniors embraced in an aisle behind fans as the underclassmen were introduced to a crowd of about 9,500, who came together for the second edition of Midnight Madness dubbed "Midnight with the Heels."
As his name was called and he hit the floor, he seemed to signal the start of a great year — his senior year — as he spiked the ball to the hardwood and hugged his teammates.
I can understand what Capel is feeling. I, too, am a senior at the University of North Carolina. This was the beginning of a lot of last firsts for me also.
But it's not a bad thing, and this year should be a special one. There are several reasons to think so after Friday's festivities.
The most noticeable was Neil Fingleton. Finally, fans have something to judge his potential by, other than reports from the University Games this summer and that track meet they call the McDonald's All-American game.
I don't think any person will forget seeing Big British's feet still on the floor after dunking during warm-ups. Most people pointed, while others bent over to pick up their jaws, which had dropped in amazement upon seeing the feat accomplished by the "eighth wonder of the world." (Also overheard were mullet references)
Just before Capel was introduced, I stepped over and got some DAP (a handshake or other form of greeting) from him. In this case, it was a fist shake and a verbal good luck.
Kudos to him for signing several autographs for students, small children and even some adults before he made his way down the steps to join the team at midcourt. He showed the class that has made him a leader at UNC — on and off the court.
Coach Doherty made several great choices by bringing back Phil Ford and Brad Daugherty to coach the scrimmage. The fans responded by giving Ford a warm standing ovation.
Stuart Scott showed that he really is a Tar Heel. After the game, I was lucky enough to meet Scott behind Carmichael before he left with the coaching staff. I said, "What up, Tar Heel?" He responded, "Glad to be back on the hill, Tar Heel." He really enjoyed himself and he added a dimension that we didn't see last year. His energy and comments ignited a boisterous crowd.
What about the letter from Peppers?
He was in a hotel Friday night, but he could join the team in January and his note added to the evening excitement. Let's hope it's after the Tar Heels play in a major bowl game.
There were several times when the crowd booed one Tar Heel. But these were good "boos" – the type that end with "boo-NE."
Adam Boone was impressed by the fan support early Saturday. He was overheard saying it was great to see that people were excited about this season. But Boone was visibly unhappy that his team lost the scrimmage.
Mick Mixon took the mic for the coaches versus students 4-on-4 game, billing it as the main event. Jim Everett offered his coaching services to his brother Joe's team of students.
But Mixon and Doherty should be ashamed for rigging the game. The clock was stopped with nine seconds left to play and Mixon told the crowd that, "the game will end when the coaches get the lead."
I've only covered standout notes from Midnight with the Tar Heels, but there is reason for optimism.
As Stuart Scott said, "We are North Carolina."
The next step for UNC students is to go pick up Blue-White and exhibition game tickets this week at the Smith Center on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
And after watching UNC win a soccer, volleyball and football game within a 24-hour period to go along with the Midnight event, it truly is great to be a Carolina Tar Heel.
That is something the entire Tar Heel nation can be proud about.