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Thank you, seniors

It didn’t end like we or they would have hoped, but Luke, Kenny, and Cam more than deserve our love.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty of time to analyze what went wrong against Auburn, because there was a lot of it. This post isn’t about last night’s game or anything that happened in it. In a better world, we would be going over last night’s win and looking ahead to the Elite Eight.

We’re not doing that, and now the season is sadly over. This was supposed to be a player of the game post, but it’s not. There really isn’t anyone to give that to. So instead of grasping at a minor positive from a bad game, let’s skip over all that pretense. Instead, this is a thank you to three players who have given their all for the University of North Carolina.

The loss sadly means the end of the Tar Heel careers of Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, and Cam Johnson. While none of them wanted to go out like this, there’s nothing that can be done now. They may not have played great Friday night, but all three have had great careers in Carolina uniforms. Let’s honor that.

Luke Maye will go out as an All-American, a two-time All-ACC player, and the shot-maker in one of the most famous moments in UNC basketball history.

Were it not for that shot, who knows if UNC even makes it past Kentucky, never mind win the national championship the following week. His development into what he became his junior and senior seasons is also one of the more remarkable transformations in UNC history.

Kenny Williams may not have gotten the chance to get on the floor in Phoenix in 2017, but he is another that won a ring that year.

He came into college with a reputation as a good shooter. While he certainly was that on his day, he’ll leave UNC more so with the reputation as one of the best Tar Heel perimeter defenders in recent memory. The defining memory of him as a Carolina player may be him taking charges and defending RJ Barrett in his final game in the Smith Center a couple weeks ago.

We may have only had two years of Cameron Johnson, but it was easy to love him all the same. In transferring from Pitt, Johnson went from outhouse to penthouse in the ACC, and in doing so became an all-conference player.

After the first season where he was still recovering from an injury that kept him out early, Johnson exceeded a lot of expectation in his second year in Chapel Hill. If you’re picking a MVP for this year’s team, he’s either 1 or 1A. His 96 made threes this year is second all-time for a single season at UNC.

He may not have gotten to be part of a deep tournament record like the others, but he was the lone first team All-ACC player on a team that will hang a conference championship banner in the Smith Center.

We’re all some combination of sad, mad, or frustrated, but through all that, we should still recognize the college careers of those three.