The score was 70-70 in the final minute with the game and national championship on the line. If the attention wasn't on Rashad McCants, who had the ball and would try a circus shot, it was on Sean May, who couldn't be stopped, or Raymond Felton, who was the definition of speed, or basically any North Carolina Tar Heel but Marvin Williams.
But McCants missed and with Illinois about to snatch the rebound and the game, there was Roy Williams' "little puppy dog" – Marvin Williams, the gangly rookie who didn't start but sure knew how to finish.
Marvin Williams tipped the rebound in and Carolina won it all. And while the 6-foot-9 freshman was the least publicized Tar Heel, that play – athletic ability, nose for the ball, effort – is why he could be the first to hear his name called at the NBA draft on Tuesday.
"I'd take him No. 1," a Central Division executive said. "To me, he is the total package. He was a top-20 pick coming out of high school."
Williams may have been fifth on the Tar Heels in scoring (11.3 points), but all winter the NBA scouts have salivated over his ability. A modern-style small forward, Williams is long and athletic, and he can shoot from the outside and put the ball on the deck and make a move. His rebounding prowess – he averaged 6.6 rebounds a game – is an added bonus.
Having just turned 19 on June 19, there is very little not to like about the Bremerton, Wash., native.
"[He has a] lively body, the ability to do things out on the court and the power to do things inside," Roy Williams said. "[He has] great feet, [he] slides his feet well and can play defense on the perimeter guy."
Marvin Williams almost joined the prep-to-pros parade a year ago, where he would have been a first-round pick. Instead, he decided to mature at the college level and join a winning team.
What he found in Chapel Hill was a loaded roster and a starting lineup that consisted of two seniors and three juniors. That meant, outrageous talent or not, he was coming off the bench.
"It helped me," Williams said. "I learned about the game. I learned a lot from my teammates."
In an era of instant gratification, you can't underestimate that sentiment.
"When I came [to UNC] I didn't have a timetable on what I wanted to do," Williams said. "I just wanted to come here, work hard, learn as much as I could about basketball, meet people and go to school. I was blessed to have a great season.
"We won a national championship. I was blessed to play with great players. I feel like my time is up in college, and it's time for me to do other things."
Like be a top-two pick.
TOP SMALL FORWARD PROSPECTS
1. Marvin Williams, 6-9, North Carolina, freshman.
2. Gerald Green, 6-8, Houston (Texas) Gulf Shores Academy – He has incredible speed and athletic ability for a player his size. Also possesses Tracy McGrady-like slashing to the hole and finishing ability.
3. Danny Granger, 6-8, New Mexico, senior – He's as complete of a package as you can find in the draft. He can score, rebound and defend and he knows how to work hard.
4. Hakim Warrick, 6-8, Syracuse, senior – High-character kid who excited scouts this season by adding a reliable face up game away from the basket. Long arms should make him a strong defensive player.
5. Joey Graham, 6-6, Oklahoma State, senior – Has the potential to be one of the best wing defenders in the NBA. He's strong and athletic and he learned man-to-man defense under Eddie Sutton.
- Marvin Williams
- Roy Williams