Champion Tar Heels visit Obama, the No. 1 hoops fan

McClatchy NewspapersMay 11, 2009 

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama loved the gifts that the North Carolina Tar Heels gave him Monday, but he had one more request for the 2009 men's college basketball champs.

"If somebody could just present me a jump shot, I need one of those!" Obama quipped in a celebration ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.

Obama, a fervent basketball fan who grew up playing hoops in Hawaii, told his visitors they'd all done pretty well since he famously scrimmaged with them during a North Carolina campaign stop in April 2008.

"I'm not sure whose luck rubbed off on who. There was just a good vibe going on there, because they're now national champions and I'm now president," the president said to laughter outside the White House.

Obama thanked the Tar Heels, who waltzed through the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament this year, "for salvaging my bracket and vindicating me before the entire nation."

The president had filled out his March Madness brackets on live TV, picking North Carolina to win it all.

At the ceremony Monday, Coach Roy Williams gave the president a blue-and-white Carolina jersey with "Obama" and the number 1 on it.

"I coached the national championship game in front of, I think, 79,222 people, and I was not nervous at all," Williams said. "And I'm scared to death right now."

Williams held up the jersey for Obama to see.

"That's what I'm talking about!" Obama crowed.

Five senior players who graduated Sunday gave the president a large framed photograph of the then-candidate in sweatpants posing with the team 13 months ago after their widely covered scrimmage in Chapel Hill, N.C.

"Tyler (Hansbrough) chose not to block my shot," Obama said to more laughter. "Of course, I was so intimidated by him being near me that I missed it."

Studying the photo, Obama added: "Look at that; hardly broke a sweat."

The president met privately with the team in the White House before the ceremony.

Point guard Ty Lawson, who'll forgo his senior year and enter the NBA draft, said afterward that Obama had complimented his play during the championship run.

"We didn't talk too much because I know he's a busy man," Lawson said. "I must have been doing something right that he was paying attention to my game."

Hansbrough said it was his first visit to the nation's capital.

"It's pretty cool to hang out with the president," he said.

Williams said he wouldn't mind returning to the White House next year.

"I would love to make this an annual tradition, but that doesn't happen much in college basketball," he said.

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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