Tommy: Rockin' in the DSC

Tommy: Rockin' in the DSC

If you did not make it Monday night, do whatever it takes to be in the Dean Smith Center Wednesday night at 7 p.m. as the Heels face Georgetown for the right to head to New York City and the Garden. Better advice yet, get there a couple hours early to ensure a good seat and enjoy the best basketball atmosphere Chapel Hill hasn't seen since famed Carmichael Auditorium closed its doors.

When the NIT pairings were announced, I believed Carmichael was the place to play since many, players included, were lukewarm to the idea of playing in the "other" postseason tournament. I thought there'd be no way the Heels could remotely fill the Smith Center and even half full, Carmichael is deafening. Worst still, when the Dean Dome is less than full, the empty seats really stand out, especially since many of those tend to be close to the court.

While the Carmichael option would have been great, going with general admission seating in the Smith Center was a stroke of genius by those in the Athletic Department. Cheap GA seating guarantees two things, both of which have been instrumental in the lifting of the spirits, at least publicly, for those in, around and that follow the program. One, the best and most committed fans get the best seats and two, droves of fans that have never seen the Heels in person have a great chance to do just that. I remember the first time I saw the hardwood Heels in person and seeing the number of children in the stands Monday night brought back those cherished memories.

Tonight's game, win or lose, marks the last time this season we'll see this group of Heels together on the Smith Center court. Barring an earth shaking event, it'll be the one last time "regular joes" have the opportunity to see Carolina up close and personal. The bar has been set by Monday night's crowd. The job of tonight's crowd is to raise it even higher.

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34, 15, 14, 3 and 2. Winning numbers in the lotto? Nope. Just Raymond Felton's numbers for minutes played, points, assists, blocks and turnovers against the Wyoming Cowboys. Yet another great game by the Latta freshman. I've said just about all I can say about Carolina's point guard in columns over the past few weeks. That said, I'll let you, the readers, close this week's column as I dip into my email bag in search of Felton praise following last week's "The Reason We Watch."

"I totally agree with you on the article that you wrote about the UNC vs. Depaul game. Raymond Felton is also one of the most spectacular players I have ever seen at UNC. To say that in company with Phil Ford, James Worthy, and Michael Jordan, is pretty amazing. In the second half of the game, Felton was the only one out there who really wanted to win that game. He plays harder than anyone I have ever seen before. He is the best ball handler in the ACC along with being the best point guard, I don't care about Steve Blake, he has lots of help. I will tell anyone if they ask me who is the best point guard in the ACC, it has to be Raymond Felton. I don't believe there is anyone better!" --- Bonnie

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"I often do not like the articles you write, but this one was almost perfect. Everyone I watched the game with and have spoken to since is in agreement: Raymond Felton will lead Carolina to the Promised Land! Be it the NCAA, the ACC or even the NIT, Mr. Felton epitomizes everything that is great about Carolina Basketball.

I am so sick of all of the whining and negative publicity surrounding our program this year. I think surely I am not the only one who sees the wonderful things about to come to fruition. Patience fellow Tar Heels! How could anyone consider bailing out with this guy as our leader? Ludicrous! Raymond, I'll follow you to hell (or Dook) and back.

There is not a championship ring nor trophy great enough to compare with the amount of pride I have from just knowing that Raymond Felton is a Tar Heel too! I am sure these things will come because this kid is a winner and he makes everyone around so much better. The glory days are coming soon. Mark my words!"---Richard P.

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"It is impossible to overstate Felton's contributions, so don't think you're even close to that. If he were the subject of EVERY column you write for the rest of your life, you'd still have me shaking my head in agreement each time.

Maybe the analogy only works for me, a 50-year-old dyed-in-the-wool Tar Heel alum, but Felton reminds me of Bruce Springsteen. They both bring it hard, night after night after night. They both elevate those around them. They both refuse to say "goodnight" until the job is done. There's no "phone it in" in either of them. If he appreciates college basketball, I'll bet The Boss would be flattered by the comparison.

Again, great work. If we could have a Felton heart in the chest of every Tar Heel player...." ---Danny

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"I wanted to write to you and say that I had a player at UNC that could match Felton. But, I can't come up with a single one. I cannot say enough about Raymond Felton. He's by far the most complete player I've ever seen in a NC uniform. And I've been watching for my entire life (that I can remember, that is). I've watched Jimmy Black, Perkins, Worthy... Even Michael's greatness. I appreciated them all. Brad Daugherty was incredible to watch as was Kenny Smith. Carter and Jamison were absolutely fantastic, as was Shammond Williams. Ed Cota gave us 4 incredible years.

None of these guys can say that they never took a play off; that they never relaxed. I've never seen a player at any level that doesn't take a play off to rest. Felton's energy is amazing! As Dicky V predicted during the Kansas game, and it came true, "Everybody is going to love little Raymond down in Chapel Hill!" ---Shane


Thanks for the many emails over the past few months and by all means, keep'em coming to carolina93@nc.rr.com!

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