Former North Carolina guard Marcus Ginyard says he will never forget the nerves, the joy, the raw emotion of starting his first game as a freshman in November 2005.
“Running through the tunnel for that first game and hearing the band playing, the fans cheering, almost brings tears to my eyes to re-live,’’ Ginyard, who started alongside fellow freshmen Bobby Frasor and Tyler Hansbrough in that last-second win over Gardner-Webb, wrote in an email last week.
After five years in Chapel Hill, Ginyard -- who played in 110 UNC games, but had to redshirt the 2008-09 national title season because of a foot injury -- is in his third year competing professionally overseas. After a season with a German club, and then another in Israel, Ginyard last week typed his answers after finishing breakfast and icing his sore joints in Wloclawek, Poland.
What’s life like, playing basketball in Poland?
Ginyard: Life in Poland is quite interesting, as it is in the other locations I've played as well. Every day I am usually faced with some strange or interesting situation that I've never found myself in before. Some days it’s having to communicate with someone in a different language, or failing to communicate for that matter. Other days maybe it’s trying to find a good place to eat (I rarely eat out) and sometimes it's finding a quiet place in the city to just sit and read, or maybe getting lost trying to take the train to a nearby city. When living overseas, I feel like every day is an exploration, learning something new, seeing something new, meeting someone new, etc. Back home in America I get the feeling sometimes that we are so surrounded by things extremely familiar to us, that on a daily basis we don't capitalize more on seeking new experiences.
Basketball here in Poland is very competitive. Many teams here in Europe carry multiple American players so it’s always interesting to compete against guys I've seen for years and years. [Saturday] I face[d] off against Ben McCauley from NCSU. Every year I've played against more than a handful of old opponents. ...
What’s the best part (or parts) of playing overseas? The worst?
Ginyard: The best part about playing overseas is the experience of living in a foreign country. Personally I think it’s an invaluable experience for people to get a chance to realize that the world is so much bigger than the state you were born in, region that you’re from, or even the massive USA. The worst part is being so far from family and friends. Technology now has made this considerably easier of course with email, Skype, Twitter and so on. However, I have met some very close friends in my time outside of the country.
There are quite a few Tar Heels playing overseas; do you ever run into any of them?
Ginyard: I always try to run into as many as I can. In Germany I got to see Rey Terry multiple times. In Israel I had the chance to see Deon [Thompson] and Danny [Green]. This January I took a trip to Paris over my break and stayed with David Noel, got to see Jawad Williams as well. This year I plan to see Deon again and may take a trip to Estonia to see Marc Campbell.
What’s your favorite memory or moment of your years in Chapel Hill?
Ginyard: This is nearly impossible to answer for me. I was blessed to have some of the most incredible college memories, both on and off the court, in the FIVE years I was there. Wins over Duke were obviously great days, but I also have great memories beating OSU in [2006, then] Kentucky at home that same year I believe (so hard for me to keep track of all these games!!) Beating Louisville to go to the Final Four [in 2007-08] was something I'll never forget as well. It just seems like I won the lottery over and over again. Hard to put one moment in a lock for first place.
On Nov. 9, at least one UNC freshman (Marcus Paige) will start his first game as a Tar Heel. You had that same experience in 2005. What do you remember from that experience? And any advice to the freshmen this season?
Ginyard: I remember having a million emotions and thoughts running through my mind at one time. I also remember being quite nervous because of my injury and not knowing just how well my wrist would hold up in the heat of an actual game, although it almost made it through practices without incident. Running through the tunnel for that first game, and hearing the band playing, the fans cheering, almost brings tears to my eyes to re-live.
If I had any advice, honestly, I'd tell them to be calm, be patient, recognize all the feelings they may have, remember this moment. And when the ball gets tossed up, push them all aside and just play basketball like they are capable of, and they will surely find success.
How long do you want to play basketball professionally? And what do you want to do after that?
Ginyard: My plan at the moment is to continue to play and continue to look to reach my goals on the basketball court until the body can't take it. Plans change, so who knows what will happen, but right now, I'm focused on playing ball, and working to get better and better on the court.
After playing I'm just not sure yet. I've been thinking recently about finding a way to start taking classes during the summer and potentially online while overseas in route to a masters degree, but I'm only in the beginning stages of gathering information and possible leads at the moment. I've also thought a great deal about finding a way to get back into Carolina Athletics (not as a coach). And I've also thought a good deal about finding some way to not call the U.S. my permanent place of residence. There's really a million options out there, and I guess I can't focus enough on them at the moment to be any more sure exactly which direction I would like to go. I'm just trying to make it through [this week]!
You can follow Ginyard on Twitter at @MG1NYARD.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.