Smiling Senior

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Marcus Ginyard hasn't smiled a lot during his fifth year at North Carolina. But those pearly whites shined so bright Tuesday night that fans in the upper deck of the Smith Center got more than a eye-full.

Perhaps there was a sharper edge to his performance in UNC's 69-62 victory over Miami on Senior Night than he's displayed for most of this season. Being healthy certainly helps.

Ginyard's 12 points and 12 rebounds – his first career double-double – were just part of it. He crashed to the floor four times going strong to the glass, defended like UNC fans have seen in the past, and displayed the kind of passion that endeared him to so many before injuries took their toll.

"I introduced him to the freshmen in the locker room and said, ‘That's the Marcus that we've known in the past that you guys have not been able to see,'" Roy Williams said. "And I think that's really important."

It was a complete performance for a nearly-complete young man. Add five assists to his totals and it appeared that the Ginyard of old had returned to form. Healthy, strong, athletic and vibrant, Marcus Ginyard was back.

Three of his boards came on the offensive end, including a put-back of an errant shot by Leslie McDonald that was classic Ginyard. He darted in from the right side untouched, and in a flash converted the miss with a simple lay in.

This was a regular thing before the injuries.

"The injuries haven't really allowed me to play the way I want all the time," said Ginyard, who is uncomfortable saying too much about himself. "I think that tonight is a great example of me trying to get back to my old self, and I felt great out there."

And perhaps most important was that the dashing smile wouldn't quit, especially when he drained three-of-four free throws in the final minute to help seal the game; the students shouting his trademark "Woo!" and chanting his name before the final two from the stripe.

To a degree, Ginyard's glowing face represented a bit of relief, as a very tough year is getting a bit of a respite. But it also represented a feeling of normalcy after so many tough times. The average person can't possibly understand what it has been like for Ginyard over the past 18 months.

Foot injuries sidelined him for UNC's national title run a year ago, and this season hasn't gone close to form, often prompting criticism from once-adoring fans. Add that classmates and his best buds – Tyler Hansbrough and Bobby Frasor – moved on last spring, and this has been one excruciatingly difficult ride for the Virginia native.

"It's been so tough for him," said fellow senior Marc Campbell, a housemate of Ginyard's this year. "He came in with a group that's going to be remembered forever for what they did… It's incredibly tough for him to go out with us and also be connected to them forever."

Some things with Ginyard, though, have never changed. Remember his love for detailing teammates' cars a few years ago? Now he has taken on a different role, and it's classic Ginyard.

"He's actually made our house so much cleaner," Campbell said. "We got rid of Ty (Lawson) and we got Marcus. We actually upgraded. We used to have the messiest house in the world because Ty would leave everything everywhere, but now we have Marcus and it's like having a mom.

"He's one of the cleanest guys I've ever met, and he's one of those guys that everything is done with a purpose."

It is that purpose that showed in Ginyard's play Tuesday night. He had a mission and he accomplished it.

Ginyard admitted to feeling some emotion, even more than last year. And his perseverance to stay the course is paying off. He has grabbed 35 rebounds in UNC's last three affairs, and is now drawing rave reviews around the locker room.

"Thinking about what Marcus has been through since he's been at Carolina," Deon Thompson said. "Having to come back and having a year like this, he's definitely endured a lot. And for him to go out on senior night with his first career double-double shows he hasn't given up on anything."

And it appears that the Tar Heels haven't either. For the first time this season, maybe they are beginning to resemble the man many thought would lead them all along.

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