- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 12, 2005

If the new, improved, less-is-more Sean May does not yet quite resemble Superman in physique, the 6-foot-9 junior forward nonetheless was one of the more notable action figures in college basketball as he led North Carolina to the No.1 seed in the ACC tournament.

May posted double figures in points and rebounds in eight straight games before the Tar Heels played Clemson yesterday at MCI Center — a feat no Carolina player, not even Michael Jordan, had done since the 1975-76 season.

That also was when May’s father, Scott, was national player of the year for Indiana as the unbeaten Hoosiers won the NCAA championship. Sean May made his pop more proud than usual Sunday with 26 points and 24 rebounds in a victory over archrival Duke — an effort Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski called “one of the great performances of an individual, not just this season but any season.”

But against Clemson, quick, athletic and seeded ninth, May had one of his worst games with 13 points and six rebounds. Nothing clicked. He made just three of 10 shots, scored but two points after halftime and had three turnovers. Yet the Tar Heels won 88-81, erasing an 11-point deficit in the last seven minutes to avoid being the first No.1 seed to lose an ACC tournament game to a No.9 seed.

It was a spirited comeback, but for much of the game Carolina took the approach of a team that had beaten an opponent by an average of 25.5 points in two regular-season games and expected to do it again.

“We just weren’t mentally into it,” said May, an All-ACC first-team selection. “We were playing, we were hustling, but guys were getting caught in defensive lapses. They were breaking us down and getting layups. Coach [Roy Williams] said if it doesn’t mean anything to you, then don’t even play. We’ll just call the game.”

Assessing his own performance, May issued the standard explanation: “I just wasn’t putting the ball in the hole, wasn’t doing the things I’d been doing. I just couldn’t really get going. Some days that happens. Clemson wanted to get the ball out of my hands and make our guards beat us.”

Even when he muscled free of the Tigers’ collapsing defense, the 255-pound May had trouble finishing his shots. Rebounds eluded his fingertips, and passes were fumbled. May is not known for losing his grip. When TV analyst and former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins was asked before the game what he likes about May, he quickly replied, “Great hands, great hands.

“And great genes.”

Tutored by his father from an early age, May grew up in Indianapolis. Despite his athletic gifts, he eventually started growing in the wrong direction. He put up decent numbers last season after an injury-marred freshman year, but Williams strongly suggested that May could be even better if he slimmed down.

“Last year I was in terrible shape,” he said. “I’m in much better shape this year. I got up at 7 a.m., ran with my strength coach, went home, ate a light breakfast, [would] come back and lift and come back in the afternoon and play with my teammates. The big thing that got me into better shape was my diet and my eating habits. I took out all the junk food and started eating a lot more lean protein.”

May added muscle to his wide frame, lost 10 to 20 pounds (estimates vary) and gained a berth on the U.S. Junior National Team that won a gold medal during the summer. He was named USA Basketball co-player of the year and has not slacked off. His teammates are most appreciative.

“He’s taken care of his body,” senior guard Melvin Scott said. “I never had a teammate take care of his body like Sean. He worked real hard. I’d watch him work, and it was like, ‘Wow!’ each and every day.”

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