The infatuation with the North Carolina Tar Heels began at an early age for Shea Rush. It centered around basketball coach Roy Williams — who years earlier had recruited his father, JaRon, a former Pembroke Hill standout — but it was plenty more than that.
The style of play. The campus at Chapel Hill. The Dean Smith Center.
"I was even obsessed with the uniforms as a little guy," Rush said. "It was everything about it. It was my dream school."
Dream became reality Sunday.
Rush, a senior at Barstow High School, announced his intentions to attend North Carolina, where he has been offered a spot on the basketball team as a preferred walk-on.
"First and foremost, I'm excited to be a part of the program," said Rush, who visited the campus over the weekend. "What I pride myself on is defense and energy. When I get there, that's what I'm going to do. The rest will fall into place.
"I'm a late-bloomer, but I feel like the potential with me is there. With hard work and their coaching, it will come."
Rush helped Barstow win the Missouri Class 3 state championship last March, averaging 13.7 points, 5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He is a 6-6 wing whose athletic ability is most notable in his vertical leap.
Even so, he did not draw a scholarship offer from a Division I school, a recruitment process he called both frustrating and motivating.
His father, JaRon, received one from Kansas in 1997 while Williams was coaching the Jayhawks, but Williams stopped recruiting JaRon during his senior season at Pembroke Hill. JaRon ultimately attended UCLA for two seasons.
"I think I'm tying up something that felt untied," Shea Rush said. "I think it's really nice. I'm happy to make the full circle."