Imagine Will Ferrell’s famed ‘more cowbell’ sketch from his Saturday Night Live days, but instead of insisting for another gong, he’s yelling about the need for an added dose of North Carolina Tar Heels talent Luke Maye.
Not exactly the same, but with America being Ferrell and Maye being the cowbell.
Nevertheless, Luke Maye fever is a real thing in the realm of college basketball. A combination of a talented player, coupled with his UNC ties (as well as a few nefarious reasons), is why he’s been thrust into the position of being one of the most recognizable players in the country.
What are we to do with the fact that Luke Maye-nia has already swept the nation, brother?
Honestly, there’s going to be some who will want to feel cynical about it all. That Maye, who had only OK freshman and sophomore seasons, will be championed by those who love things done the supposed right way in the NCAA’s stomping ground — whatever the hell the ‘right way’ is, we’ll never know.
There’s some coding there, though most sane people understand what that is on its very surface.
Even with last season’s glorious bearded chinstrap thing, Maye was previously operating within that world, but to much lower levels. The main event was reserved for America’s favorite talking point, Grayson Allen, as he was still tripping his way through collegiate hardwoods one polarizing game at a time.
That’s no more. Allen has since been drafted by the NBA franchise that made it too spot on to make jokes about this specific player joining that specific city. Luke Maye is now the guy. That guy. That guy in Version 45 of the United States.
We won’t delve there. Avoiding the pitfall this is not, but how Maye is consumed this season doesn’t (yet) need to be a talking point about larger societal issues. For now, it’s worth noting.
To be Camp Crystal Lake clear: This isn’t a Maye problem. How he is covered and cheered has almost nothing to do with him. Whatever happens from a coverage standpoint from now until March has no impact on what kind of person or player he is.
And what kind of player is Maye? An excellent one. A guy who had a fine enough first two seasons, then made a massive jump in production as a junior. A now senior who plays for the famed North Carolina Tar Heels and will be pegged on numerous watch award lists.
For good reason too, as he averaged 16.9 points on 49 percent shooting from the floor while hitting 43 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc last season.
He was so good, in fact, he went through the NBA Draft process, before finally deciding to return for one more season.
“I have had a great experience learning from the NBA process and growing as a basketball player during the past couple weeks,” Maye said of his decision in an Instagram post. “I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches and teammates for all of their support. Through this process, I have decided that I am going to comeback to school to improve as a player and finish my college career.”
The Tar Heels, who went 26-11 last season and finished third in the ACC, will need Maye to continue with his development. To be more than just an offensive juggernaut. A guy capable of defending multiple positions this season, especially when facing the rival Duke Blue Devils, a team that will have multiple guys who are position-less in nature.
Nevertheless, that’s all conjecture. It’s only August. Not a single ball has been bounced in a regular season game. There’s been no anarchy, benign or otherwise, and Maye is already on record stating he believes in getting better on the defensive end.
“It was a great opportunity to see how the game was different and how I would fit into an NBA system,” Maye said to the News Observer following his brush with the NBA. “The biggest thing I learned is just how I can develop and get better, mainly on the defensive end, and also try to continue to become more of a playmaker offensively.”
For many, a lot of the areas he needs to improve upon will first need to be shown to be believed, but the fact that Maye is aware he’s an unfinished product is a good indicator his development won’t be stagnant.
Maye doesn’t represent hope for the hopeless. North Carolina is as blue-blood a basketball program as there is. The Tar Heels don’t need saving. He is, however, the player likely to be most responsible in leading Roy Williams back to the mountaintop.
Between expectations put on him, the nefarious Maye-nia and less-so Maye fever sweeping the country, there won’t be a need for anyone to scream more cowbell this season to get the kid more attention.
It’ll be there, because it already is, for mostly good reason.
Joseph Nardone has been covering college basketball for nearly a decade for various outlets in a variety of ways. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter below.