N.C. Department of Correction--Correction News--April 1998

UNC Basketball Team Visits Central Prison

RALEIGH - Two days after winning the ACC tournament and just two days before beginning first-round play in the NCAA tournament, the UNC men’s basketball team took a break from practice to visit the inmates and employees of Central Prison.

Warden French and UNC Coach Guthridge

UNC Coach Bill Guthridge brought the men’s basketball team to the prison March 10 to visit with inmates and staff, answer questions, sign autographs and show off the team’s talents in the prison gym.

Gathered courtside for the Heels’ performance were more than 100 inmates and a handful of correction employees. The group watched and cheered as Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter, dressed in blue and white warm-up gear, easily stuffed the ball in the goal with behind-the-back jams.

Central Prison Warden James French said the team has visited the prison several times over the past ten years. However, this year’s visit was especially exciting coming two days after the Heels captured the ACC title and being the same day that Guthridge was named ACC Coach of the Year and Jamison was named ACC Player of the Year.

In a letter to Coach Guthridge and the team, Kenneth Harris, associate warden of programs at Central Prison wrote, "Visits like this mean a great deal to the men here who often feel lonely and forgotten. Just the fact that you and the team cared enough to come in and share with them at a time when you are preparing for the ‘NCAA Tourney’ sends a message to many here that, yes, there are people who care."

All the inmates in the regular population were invited to attend the basketball exhibition. "They’ve all been real excited," French said.

The inmates’ excitement was matched only by the excitement exhibited by the DOC employees in attendance. Armed with basketball programs, newspapers highlighting UNC’s win, caps and basketballs, the employees rushed from one player to the next seeking autographs - most claiming that the autographs were for someone other than themselves.

During the autograph session, Shammond Williams stood underneath the goal bouncing a ball and talking to a half dozen inmates and employees about the NCAA tournament and the past season. Jamison sat on a table on the other side of the room surrounded by individuals seeking the autograph of the team’s star; while Ed Cota, Brendan Haywood and Carter gathered on the far side of the gym fielding questions and signing handkerchiefs, dollar bills and newspapers.

Loud applause followed the team as they left the prison to return to Chapel Hill. As the team bus was pulling out of the parking lot, a DOC employee rushed up to the bus holding a pen and paper asking for an autograph. The bus stopped, the door opened and the employee went inside. Minutes later, he emerged from the bus with his autograph and a big smile. u

NC DOC Correction News- April 1998
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