CHARLOTTE — Some people can’t wait for Christmas. Others are looking ahead to New Year’s Eve. But for Gabe DeVoe, the upcoming date that has him most fired up is Tuesday, Jan. 16.
What’s so special about that day?
For DeVoe and his Clemson basketball teammates, it’s the day they get a chance to end one of the longest, most remarkable streaks in all of sports whey they take on North Carolina at the Smith Center.
The Tigers have never beaten the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, a stretch of futility that has reached 58 straight games. It’s a number DeVoe knows all too well, since he’s reminded of it every time he returns to his hometown of Shelby, where most of his friends — and even a few family members — are passionate UNC fans.
“Yeah, I hear it a lot,” the 6-foot-3 senior guard said Wednesday at the ACC’s Operation Basketball media event. “At home, fans joke about it a lot, but I’m excited. I think we can get them because that’s a long streak we need to break.”
Even though the Tar Heels are coming off a season in which they won the national championship and the Tigers haven’t even been in the NCAA tournament since 2011, the odds of the streak ending this season are better than most.
Not only is UNC breaking in three new starters with the most inexperienced frontcourt of Roy Williams’ coaching tenure, but Clemson comes into the matchup with the confidence of having taken the eventual national champs to overtime a year ago.
In fact, had Avry Holmes not missed the front end of a one-and-one with five seconds to go, the Tigers might have won the game in regulation.
Winning in Chapel Hill, however, is a completely different proposition than coming close at home. That’s what makes the opportunity so special for a North Carolina native such as DeVoe, who averaged 7.1 points and 1.9 assists per game last season.
“The ACC has always been a dream,” he said, admitting that he was a Tar Heels fan growing up in Shelby. “So going up and getting a chance to play there against a team you always see on TV was pretty cool.”
While DeVoe is going to do whatever he can to beat UNC and end his school’s streak of futility in Chapel Hill, he’s still a dyed-in-the-wool North Carolinian when it comes to defending his state’s honor when it comes to basketball supremacy.
“Even the football guys back at school, we always joke about where the hoop state is and even they agree it’s North Carolina,” DeVoe said. “I start throwing out some of the names. John Wall is one of my favorites right now, Chris Paul and a lot of those guys.
“I feel like North Carolina is the hoop state, so I enjoy being able to say I’m from North Carolina.”