Today is May 4. We are exactly a month into “The Wait”.
The wait comes every year. The wait is never fun. The wait is hard. You might even call it excruciating.
A month ago today, the Tar Heels lost what is, for me, the most excruciating Carolina loss of my 32 years on Earth. What an incredibly fun season the 2015-16 Tar Heels had; but that ending though. I shudder thinking about it. Sometimes I still punch my pillow when I wake up in the morning because they were sooooooooo close. But win or lose your last game of the season, the wait still comes.
What is this wait I speak of?
Every year we wait for the decisions of underclassmen. Will they come back to Chapel Hill? Or will they declare for the NBA draft? And if they declare, will they hire an agent (meaning they forfeit any remaining eligibility) or won’t they (meaning they maintain eligibility and could return)?
Sometimes a player will spare us the wait and rather quickly declare their intention to return. Sometimes a player will spare us the agony in a less favorable way by declaring for the draft and hiring an agent. Sometimes players we think are gone will surprise us and come back. Sometimes players we think should stay will decide to leave. Sometimes players wait a long time before deciding to come back. There are so many possibilities.
The good news for this year is that the wait is almost over. We have come to grips with the fact (or at least tried to) that Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Joel James have to leave due to graduation. Just today, Kennedy Meeks announced that he would return to Chapel Hill for his senior season:
Proud to announce that I will be returning for my senior season!!! Oh how I love my 🐑🐑!! Thanks for all the support!😎😜
— Kennedy Meeks (@kennedymeeks3) May 4, 2016
The only remaining decision is Justin Jackson. He has declared for the draft, but did not hire an agent. Based on his somewhat disappointing sophomore season, it seems logical that he would return, but crazier things have happened. So we wait.
We all hope Jackson will come back, but even if he doesn’t, we’re looking at a possible starting lineup of Joel Berry, Nate Britt, Theo Pinson, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks. Not too shabby considering the departure the Tar Heels have experienced after other extremely successful Carolina teams of recent history (think the 08-09 and 11-12 teams).
The wait, this year, is amplified. Why? Because this year, the wait has the added dimension of potential NCAA sanctions. We all breathed a sigh of (at least temporary) relief when the most recent allegation notice came out and did not mention men’s basketball. There is some hope that the men’s basketball team will be exonerated and not face loss of scholarships or national championships or even more recruits.
The wait is only a month in and we still have about 5 more months to go before Late Night With Roy. We might see Justin Jackson that night, we might not. By that night, we might know more about the NCAA sanctions or (more likely based on the tortoise pace the NCAA is exhibiting) we might not. Regardless, that night can’t come soon enough so we can see the 2016-17 Tar Heels in action and can begin to erase the memory of Kris Jenkins’ rising up and unleashing an incredibly (and unfortunately) beautiful shot that broke all our hearts.