Chase Stroud shoots and makes a running jumper over the UNC basketball captain Joel Berry II during the 15th annual clinic for Special Olympics North Carolina athletes hosted by the UNC men’s basketball team. Colin Warren-Hicks cwarrenhicks@heraldsun.com
Chase Stroud shoots and makes a running jumper over the UNC basketball captain Joel Berry II during the 15th annual clinic for Special Olympics North Carolina athletes hosted by the UNC men’s basketball team. Colin Warren-Hicks cwarrenhicks@heraldsun.com

Orange County

UNC Coach Roy Williams hosts Special Olympians on a day of ‘smiles and cheers.’

By Colin Warren-Hicks

cwarrenhicks@heraldsun.com

February 05, 2018 03:37 PM

CHAPEL HILL

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.

Voyager Academy’s Jacob Ross slams a basketball through a hoop as UNC star Theo Pinson watches during the 15th annual clinic for Special Olympics North Carolina athletes hosted by the UNC men’s basketball.
Colin Warren-Hicks cwarrenhicks@heraldsun.com

“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.”

Andrew McKenna gets a shot off at the buzzer as UNC coach Roy Williams (back to camera) raises his arms in anticipation at Sunday’s 15th annual clinic for Special Olympics North Carolina athletes hosted by the UNC basketball program.
Colin Warren-Hicks cwarrenhicks@heraldsun.com

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.”

Stroud’s primary athletic focus is not basketball. It’s bocce. He is one of around 60 athletes chosen to represent North Carolina in Seattle at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle July 1-6.

“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.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks