CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — C.B. McGrath paced the court Wednesday, watching his UNC Wilmington team get up shots and sprint through transition drills like seemingly any other preseason practice. It's everything going on outside of that workout that's abnormal for McGrath's Seahawks.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — C.B. McGrath paced the court Wednesday, watching his UNC Wilmington team get up shots and sprint through transition drills like seemingly any other preseason practice.
It's everything going on outside of that workout that's abnormal for McGrath's Seahawks.
They haven't been able to go home for roughly two weeks, not with UNC Wilmington's campus remaining closed to students in the wake of Hurricane Florence. The storm forced the Seahawks to hold their first week of preseason practices at North Carolina, where McGrath worked as an assistant coach under Hall of Famer Roy Williams for 14 seasons.
"I think they want to get back to what they're used to," McGrath said in an interview with The Associated Press. "They want to be in school and see their friends and be in places they're familiar with. But this is not a bad alternative in terms of we're all together, we're at a place we can practice, we can start getting ready for our season — even though it's a different way to go about it."
Students were told to evacuate the coastal city of Wilmington ahead of Florence, which brought heavy rain that swelled rivers over their banks in flooding that ravaged much of eastern North Carolina — including submerging parts of Interstate 40 and other major roads to cut off Wilmington from the rest of the state for days.
The storm is blamed for the death of at least 47 people, 36 of those in North Carolina.
The campus is continuing to deal with cleanup and repair efforts, so many in fact that it announced during the middle of Wednesday's practice that it would have to push its reopening target date back another week. UNCW employees are now allowed to return Monday, while students have been asked to delay their arrival until Oct. 6 with classes set to resume Oct. 8.
"Yeah, I'm ready to get home," said McGrath, the 42-year-old second-year coach. "I think they all are. But we're trying to make the best of this situation."
In the meantime, athletic director Jimmy Bass said five school teams — men's and women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, and volleyball — have had to find alternate venues for practices and matches. The women's basketball program, for example, is also working out in Chapel Hill at the Carmichael Arena home to UNC women's basketball program, while the others have bounced between schools like North Carolina State, Duke, Elon and UNC Greensboro.
"They've all said: 'Tell us what you need,'" Bass said. "So we were able to make it work, from transportation to housing to food to practice facilities, competition facilities."
The connection was easy for McGrath, who was part of NCAA championship teams under Williams in 2005, 2009 and 2017. McGrath phoned Williams ahead of the storm to ask about getting access to either the Tar Heels' practice gym in the Smith Center or the arena floor in case the storm's aftermath created an obstacle.
Now the Seahawks are working out in the Smith Center at the same time as the NBA's Charlotte Hornets, who are holding training camp here this week. UNCW practiced on the main arena floor Tuesday and plan to work out here at least through Saturday.
The Seahawks are staying at a hotel and eating regular team meals together, including lunches on campus. The week also includes plans to attend Friday's exhibition game at the Smith Center between the Hornets and the Boston Celtics.
"I feel like this week is going to be beneficial for us more than we're thinking," senior leading scorer Devontae Cacok said. "We're going to be with each other for a full week: we're in the same hotel, we're with each other, we're going to eat together, everything. Most trips when we're in the hotel, it's about a day or two when we're on the road. ... I feel like this is going to be good for us."
In the meantime, the players can only keep working out in teal and navy practice jerseys on a court featuring a lot of light blue underneath the Tar Heels' national-championship banners hanging above.
"A lot of tradition — it's really cool, but it's not my home," junior Ty Taylor said. "So it is what it is. It's fun, I appreciate them letting us use their weight room, their locker rooms, their gym. But I'm ready to get back to my place."
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