It's interesting that North Carolina football star Julius Peppers was named for basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving, because without Peppers, the Tar Heels basketball team might not be going to the Final Four.
Peppers, a freshman All-American at defensive end for the UNC football team, has emerged as a catalyst in North Carolina's recent resurgence. The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Peppers joined the basketball team in late November and has steadily improved, becoming the Tar Heels' sixth man in a six-man rotation.
Likened to Charles Barkley, Peppers is quick and versatile enough to play any of the three frontcourt positions. In the regional semifinal against Tennessee, he played most of the final 8:03 at center after seven-footer Brendan Haywood fouled out.
Few could have envisioned what Peppers would bring to this year's Tar Heels, except for teammates Haywood and Kris Lang, who both played AAU ball with Peppers.
"Julius has been a godsend for us," says Carolina head coach Bill Guthridge. "We wouldn't have done what we've done without him."