Despite being a media law professor and holding two degrees from the University of South Carolina, Carmen Maye's college basketball loyalty lies elsewhere.
Sitting on the windowsill of her office is a UNC-themed street sign, with a Tar Heels mini-basketball not even an arm’s length away.
"My students have figured out pretty quickly that I’m a rabid North Carolina fan, having gone to school there as an undergraduate,” Carmen Maye said.
Back in 2017 — the same year the Gamecocks men’s basketball team went on the best tournament run in school history — the Tar Heels captured their sixth men’s basketball national championship in program history.
Five members of that championship team remain. Among them is Luke Maye, a distant relative of Carmen Maye.
When asked to describe the relationship, she said her great-grandfather and Luke Maye’s great-great-grandfather were brothers.
Carmen Maye has never met Luke Maye, but she has met his father, Mark Maye, who she described as her contemporary. Mark Maye was a quarterback for the Tar Heels and attended North Carolina at the same time she did.
“I didn’t even know of Mark’s line of the family until Mark was a highly recruited quarterback in North Carolina, and I saw his picture in the paper,” Carmen Maye said.
Evidently, Mark Maye’s son would follow in his footsteps and become a student-athlete for the Tar Heels in his own right.
Throughout Luke Maye’s four-year career, he has hit many important shots, honed in myriad rebounds and recorded assist after assist on the hardwood. However, Tar Heels fans, including his distant relative, may remember him most for one basket in particular.
Luke Maye’s shot to send his team to the Final Four in 2017 against John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats led to what Carmen Maye said is one of her best memories as a North Carolina basketball fan.
“The nicest thing about that was my phone started lighting up," Dr. Maye said. "I heard from other people who I’ve met since I’ve been at South Carolina who wanted to know if I was related to Luke, but also wanted to know what would I do if the Tar Heels met the Gamecocks for the national championship.”
While Colonial Life Arena played host to first and second round games this March Madness season, South Carolina's basketball team did not make it onto the bracket.
“I really hope that next year I have that problem on my hands with worrying about who would I pull for in that situation because it would be great to have both teams there,” Carmen Maye said in reference to her two schools nearly facing each other in the final game of the tournament in 2017.
Hearing from curious colleagues, students and friends was not the only thing Carmen Maye said she enjoyed about Luke Maye’s clutch shot that brought his team to that point.
“As a college professor, I especially liked that viral video of Luke attending his early class in Chapel Hill the next morning," Carmen Maye said.
While Carmen Maye’s collegiate basketball loyalty leans more towards the Carolina blue and white than it does the garnet and black, she feels at home at South Carolina.
“I feel a great sense of loyalty and pride about this university," Carmen Maye said.