Joel Berry has no problem talking about the emergence of Luke Maye and the junior forward’s value on North Carolina’s team.
However, Berry has reached his quota with questions about whether he is surprised by Maye’s emergence.
“We get the same question, over and over again,” Berry said on Sunday, after UNC’s 97-73 win over Tulane.
“It’s kind of disrespectful to him saying that it’s a surprise.”
Maye led the Tar Heels (8-1) with 22 points on Sunday to improve his season average to 20.8 points per game. This after the 6-8, 240-pound forward from Huntersville finished the 2016-17 season with a 5.5 average.
Berry has an easy explanation for Maye’s increased production (Maye’s rebounds are up, too, from 3.9 to 10.3 per game).
“It’s when you get your opportunity,” Berry said. “He’s taking advantage of it.”
With forwards Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley on the roster, Maye’s opportunities were limited last season. Yes, his last-second shot beat Kentucky to put UNC in the Final Four but he was on the floor for 14.2 minutes per game. Maye’s minutes are up to 31.9 this season.
With four new freshmen bigs trying to learn on the fly, UNC coach Roy Williams has had to rely on Maye.
Through nine games, Maye’s scoring and rebounding numbers put him in the same company as all-time greats Antawn Jamison and Tyler Hansbrough.
Maye’s 187 points through nine games are the most by a UNC player since Hansbrough had 207 as a senior in 2008-09.
Maye was the first UNC player since Jamison in 1996-97 with more than 100 points and 50 rebounds through five games.
UNC coach Roy Williams did say he thought Maye’s numbers are “somewhat surprising.” But Williams has another explanation for Maye’s astronomical statistical jump.
“Let’s be honest, too, it’s not coaching,” Williams said. “It’s sweat because Luke Maye has been willing to put in the sweat at an amount and level that very few players have done.”
The one person least surprised by the torrid start? Maye.
“I’ve always known I could do this,” Maye said. “My teammates have done a great job to put me in the situation that I am in.”
And they’ll continue to do so. Just don’t ask them if they’re surprised if Maye continues to put up big numbers.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
Luke Maye has emerged as North Carolina’s top scorer and rebounder. His numbers and how they compare with some all-time UNC greats through the first nine games of the respective seasons: