Tickets for Winston-Salem State’s preseason basketball game at North Carolina on Nov. 1 will be available starting on Wednesday.
The game, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Chapel Hill at the Smith Center during WSSU's homecoming weekend, is something officials, coaches and players are looking forward to. It’s a game that has been two years in the works, according to Chancellor Elwood Robinson of WSSU.
“I have to thank Roy Williams for doing something like this for us,” Robinson said about Williams, the Hall of Fame coach of the Tar Heels. “A couple of years ago, I called him to ask him about our vacant athletic director position and he said he would think about it and get back in touch. But in our conversation he wanted to help because Roy talked about what a mentor Big House Gaines was to him.”
Robinson said Williams gave him his word that he would try to get WSSU on the schedule.
“He said that what I want to do is play you in an exhibition game to raise some money,” Robinson said about his conversation with Williams. “And that was a while back because he tried to make it work, but their schedule was full for last season. But then it worked it out for this year.”
WSSU will get $25,000 for playing the game, and despite the game being scheduled during a hectic homecoming weekend, Robinson is excited.
“When North Carolina invites a Division II program like ours to play in an exhibition, you make it work,” Robinson said about the scheduling during homecoming weekend.
The game in Chapel Hill is one of the many events on the WSSU homecoming schedule that weekend.
Coach Cleo Hill Jr. of the Rams says he’s looking forward to the challenge of playing the Tar Heels, who last played the Rams in an exhibition game before the 2004-05 season.
“It’s going to be a big treat for us,” Hill said. “They will get to play in a big arena against a traditional power like North Carolina. It says it’s an exhibition game, but there will be a lot of excitement about it on our side.”
Robinson says the opportunity to play the Tar Heels doesn’t come along every day.
“What I want is for our student athletes on the basketball team to enjoy such a unique experience,” Robinson said. “For them to say they played in the Smith Center against one of the most tradition rich programs in the country will mean something. Not everybody can say that at the Division II level.”
The Rams and Tar Heels last played an exhibition game in 2004 with the Tar Heels winning 113-53. Williams, who was in his second season in Chapel Hill as head coach, took time to honor Gaines and his wife, Clara, before the game. Gaines, the legendary basketball coach at WSSU with 828 career wins, died in April of 2005. Williams guided the Tar Heels to the national championship in the 2004-05 season.
“It’s historical,” Robinson said. “It’s another event around our homecoming and that just makes the weekend more special.”
As for the game itself, Hill, who will be in his second season at WSSU, said it will be a monumental challenge to face the Tar Heels.
“We’ll find out a lot about ourselves — quickly,” Hill said with a laugh.