Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Game ball presented by former Tar Heel

LAHAINA, Hawaii — The game ball for Monday's North Carolina-Chaminade game was presented by Tom Butler, who played on Dean Smith's first freshman team in 1958 -- 50 years ago.

Butler, who went to school at Broughton High and now lives in Wilmington, planned the trip to Maui with his wife, son and grandsons to coincide with his 48th wedding anniversary. It just happened to fall at the same time UNC was playing in the Maui Invitational, so his son contacted the organizers to find a way to buy tickets, and the organizers, in turn, asked Butler to be a part of the game ball presentation.

"It was a fun time,'' Butler said of playing on the freshman team, which boasted only four scholarship players at the time. "Coach Smith remembers everyone who crosses his path; he knows my children, which is amazing."

Five decades later, he's a proud season ticket holder to both Carolina football and basketball games, and was pleased at the chance to watch his alma mater play while on vacation.

"I cannot believe how good they are,'' he said of the current basketball team, "and what a good job Roy Williams is doing, and how successful he is -- not just with his coaching, but with his recruiting. He's got the No. 1 team now with all these skilled athletes, and he's going to lose a lot of them, and he's got more coming next year."

— Robbi Pickeral

(Photo courtesy of EA Sports Maui Invitational)