The ACC stars put on a high flying dunking and shooting exhibition in front of a crowd of 1,800 that was sold out a half hour before tip-off. An overmatched team of Clayton teachers and former area players made up the opposition; but primarily they just stayed out of the way as both teams checked their defenses at the door.
After a long night which featured two halves of basketball with a running clock, surrounding a slam dunk contest, the ACC team took home a 127-107 win in the exhibition.
The nine-member ACC squad was made up of UNC's Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel, Charlie Everett and C.J. Hooker; N.C. State's Jordan Collins, Levi Watkins and Will Roach; Wake Forest's Taron Downey and Duke's Reggie Love.
Before and after the game, the players were mobbed by autograph seekers – in fact, some of the players may still be there signing balls, t-shirts, jerseys, etc.
"Kids look up to us, and signing autographs means a lot to them and to us," said Manuel, whose NBA stock has risen since a 22-point performance in a recent game in Portsmouth, Va.
Manuel said he was taking a week off from competitive basketball.
"Right now, I'm just trying to enjoy myself and relax before I start working out."
Winning a national championship is the ultimate joy, but the Tar Heels' participants were having just as much fun as anyone on the court.
"This was a time to just relax and play basketball for what it's supposed to be," Williams said. "This is completely fun. You don't have to worry about a job right now."
In the first half, Williams attempted a solo dunk by throwing the ball off the back board from half court, but had to stop short of finishing to avoid trampling one of the Clayton players.
"Get out of the way!" one patron in the bleachers shouted.
Williams and Manuel hooked up on several impressive alley-oops.
"We've been doing that for four years, hopefully we'll get to do it together again at the next level," Williams said.
Collins said he was currently working out for some NBA teams, and he said if that didn't work out he would likely play professionally overseas.
"This is an opportunity for us to get out in the community and show our appreciation for our fans," said Collins, a Hyattsville, Maryland product who played at famed DeMatha High School.
Roach, who has already graduated, said he is in the process of moving to Beaufort on the N.C. coast where he will spend some of his free time sailing kayaks.
"It means so much," said Roach, a former standout at nearby Raleigh Broughton. "I was blessed with a great opportunity to play college basketball. It was a great situation. This was just sort of icing on the cake. We came out here to play against a couple of good friends and to just have a lot of fun out here."
The Clayton challengers were led by 6-foot-6 Marlon Lee, a Comets assistant coach and former St. Augustine's center who used to bang in the post regularly with Detroit Pistons' star Ben Wallace while he was at Virginia Union.
"We just got this gymnasium, close to Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill – big fan base," Lee said. "A lot of these kids and fans don't really get to see these guys. Once they found out the Tar Heels were going to be here, everybody wanted to come out."
Keith Peedin, who founded the KP Sports Company, has been teaming up with The V Foundation for several years. Peedin and Lee were friends, and Lee pitched the idea to Clayton principal Jerry Smith over a year ago. But at the time, Clayton was in the process of building a new facility.
"A year ago we couldn't do this; the old gym wouldn't hold anybody," Smith said. "I told Marlon last year, ‘Let's get the All-Star game in here when we've got a place that can hold it.' So we started making contacts, and then North Carolina wins the national championship, and that helps."
The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, who won the hearts of sports fans across the country when his underdog Wolfpack captured the 1983 NCAA title. Ten years later, he inspired millions more with his memorable speech at the inaugural ESPY Awards. The gravely ill Valvano entertained, amused and captured the imagination of a worldwide audience and announced the creation of The V Foundation.
"Don't give up…don't ever give up," is the trademarked motto spoken by Valvano that night, who died at the age of 47 after a brief and very public 10-month battle with cancer.
Since 1993, The V Foundation has raised more than $45 million to fund research grants worldwide.
Over the past five years, an average of 83 cents on every dollar raised has been available to fund cancer research. The other 17 percent has gone to covering fundraising and management expenses, according to a V Foundation spokesperson.
Photo by Jason Cole, Special to IC.