GLENDALE, ARIZ. – North Carolina freshman Shea Rush is proud to carry on his family’s famous name in college basketball doing it his own way.
The preferred walk-on from Kansas City, Mo., is the son of JaRon Rush, once the No. 1 high school player in the nation who went on to play for UCLA. Timberwolves forward Brandon Rush, Shea’s uncle, won an NCAA title with Kansas in 2008.
“It would be nice to add a second national title to the family,” Shea Rush said.
But Rush never wanted to follow in his uncle’s footsteps to play for the Jayhawks. Another uncle, Kareem, was a star at Missouri and also played in the NBA. Shea didn’t think about staying in state, either.
“I never wanted to be in their shadow,” said Rush, a 6-6 forward. “I wanted to do my own thing. To be here and have this opportunity was my dream, and it came true.”
North Carolina coach Roy Williams rescinded a scholarship offer to Rush’s father after receiving a commitment at Kansas in the late 1990s. Twenty years later, the son of Williams’ former recruit never knew about that awkward history. He and his father never talked about it.
“To be able to carry on the Rush name and have the Rush dynasty continue has been unbelievable,” Rush said. “It’s made my dad happy and extremely excited. He’s never pushed me to play basketball. He wanted me to make my own way. For us to be able to connect over this has been very special.”
Rush has another claim to fame. The hats he designed for his entire team for the NCAA tournament have been a hit on social media. He made and sold fedoras in his spare time in high school.
Gonzaga, South Carolina and Oregon should be considered college hoops’ version of the United Nations.
The starting centers for those three teams would’ve all been foreign players if Montreal’s Chris Boucher were not out with a season-ending knee injury. But centers Przemek Karnowski for Gonzaga and Chris Silva for South Carolina are from Poland and Gabon of Africa, respectively. They are among 15 players in the Final Four who were born outside the U.S., including such countries as England, France, Israel, Denmark, Canada, Senegal, Estonia, Australia and Japan.
The best foreign-born player in the national semifinals is Ontario native Dillon Brooks, an All-America forward for Oregon.
Zags freshman Rui Hachimura, who has a Japanese mother and father from Benin in Africa, didn’t even realize at first he was the first Japanese-born player to be in the Final Four.
“It’s kind of cool,” said Hachimuri, a 6-8 forward.
North Carolina is the only Final Four team without a foreign player on its roster. South Carolina, Gonzaga and Oregon have five each.
South Carolina star ill
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said Thursday that the team’s leading scorer and SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell missed his first Final Four practice because of an illness.
Thornwell, averaging 25 points during the NCAA tournament, remained at the team hotel to take in fluids and rest.
“Sindarius is our most intelligent player,” Martin said. “He doesn’t need to be on the practice floor to understand what we’re doing.”