UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams called it a day full of smiles and cheers.
“Roy’s Boys” dribbled, passed and shot jumpers, layups and floaters on the Smith Center court with N.C. Special Olympians for the 15th straight year Sunday.
“I did the Special Olympics in Kansas for 15 years,” Williams said, referring to his previous head coaching post at the University of Kansas. “Now, this is 15 years here.”
The clinic’s Tar Heel player hosts instructed the Special Olympians, helping them hone fundamental skills.
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“We really enjoy doing it. Our players enjoy doing it. I think the Special Olympians really enjoy themselves. So, it’s a day full of smiles and cheers,” Williams said. “So, it’s pretty good.”
Close to 40,000 athletes participate in Special Olympics events in North Carolina, and a few more than 100 Special Olympians traveled to Chapel Hill from across the state for Sunday’s clinic.
The Special Olympians athletes, split into groups based on county affiliation, rotated between a half dozen “skill stations” run by UNC basketball players.
Jacob Ross, a middle school student at Durham’s Voyager Academy, dribbled, ran toward a lowered hoop and slammed a ball through at the dunk station run by UNC’s high-flying Theo Pinson.
Sunday was Ross’s second time at the clinic in the Smith Center.
“I love coming here because of meeting the players and also just having fun,” he said. “And also, just getting to learn new stuff.”
Ross plays the “forward slash center” position on the Voyager Academy Middle School basketball team, he said.
Sean May, UNC men’s basketball’s director of operations and former Tar Heel and NBA standout, sat behind the scorer’s table taking in the sights of the day.
May was voted the 2005 Final Four Most Outstanding Player after leading the Tar Heels to a 75-70 point victory over Illinois for the 2005 NCAA championship.
“I love it,” May said of the clinic. “It’s great for our guys to see that there are different people out here, and they too need attention. For us, to get out here – especially, after a late game – our guys did a great job, were enthusiastic and gave the Olympians the attention that they deserve.”
A Special Olympian who participated in the clinic when May was still a student athlete approached the big man.
“He asked me, if I remembered him,” May explained. “And I did.”
Across the court, an end-of-clinic scrimmage was taking place with defense playfully relaxed, and Special Olympian Chase Stroud jumped up, released and knocked in a 15-footer in the face of UNC’s captain, Joel Berry II.
Stroud and Berry shared a laughwhile looking at a subsequent photograph of Stroud’s shot.
“It’s a good one,” Berry said. “That shot went in.”
“I practice as much as I can, as often as I can,” Stroud said.
Bocce is one of the 14 sports in which athletes will compete in the Special Olympics USA Games.
“I was just one of the lucky few who got picked to go,” Stroud said.