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Good Times For Patient Platek

Andrew Platek met opportunity Wednesday night with hard work, patience and determination and it paid off.
Andrew Platek met opportunity Wednesday night with hard work, patience and determination and it paid off. (Jacob Turner, THI)

CHAPEL HILL – Andrew Platek had fun Wednesday night. A lot of fun.

It was the kind of joy that had eluded him over his first two years at North Carolina. There were some moments as a freshman, but nothing quite like what he experienced in the Tar Heels’ season-opening 76-65 victory over Notre Dame at the Smith Center.

Now, Platek wasn’t unhappy at Carolina. He loves his teammates, a sentiment that has easily been reciprocated by them. He's all in with being a part of the iconic program and he loves winning, which the Heels did 55 times the last two seasons, including capturing last season's ACC regular season title.

But he wasn’t playing, especially last year. After averaging 7.5 minutes in all but one of UNC’s games as a freshman, Platek’s time on the floor decreased to 3.6 minutes and his production was cut in half to 1.1 points per contest. He was understandably frustrated, but he also knew opportunity was coming.

Carolina lost its top five scorers and only a few scholarship players with real experience were back. Platek was one of them, so he set out to make the most of the situation, and it appears he’s done just that.

“Only my family and the people closest to me know what I’ve been through these past two years and how hard I’ve worked to have this opportunity,” he said Wedneday night. “It’s been the hardest thing in my life, but I’m so grateful for every minute I’m able to play for coach and with these guys, I’m just so thankful.”

Roy Williams is probably thankful for the 26 minutes Platek gave him in this crucial opener. Platek scored eight points, including a big-time 3-pointer to give the Heels a four-point lead with 11:33 remaining in the contest. The 6-foot-3 junior guard added four rebounds and two assists to his final tally.

Platek hit three buckets Wednesday, including two big 3-pointers.
Platek hit three buckets Wednesday, including two big 3-pointers. (Jacob Turner, THI)

“Platek was terrific,” said UNC freshman Cole Anthony, who put on a 34-point, 11-rebound show in his Tar Heels’ debut. “He came off the bench ready to play, super enthusiastic. That’s my guy right there, I’m happy he was able to come through.”

Coming through was needed, especially with senior Brandon Robinson out with an ankle injury.

Robinson started last Friday’s exhibition game but went down after playing just five minutes. On top of that, graduate transfer Christian Keeling was struggling, so Williams needed Platek to deliver ad he did.

“With BRob out, we needed players to step up and I was one of those guys,” Platek said.

And, there’s that whole fun thing.

Platek wears a big smile most of the time anyway. If bench players were ever graded for their talents cheering on teammates, Platek would have always registered high marks. But this time he was the guy his mates were clapping and yelling for.

It was fun.

“It’s hard to describe because it just feels good to play basketball again,” he said. “With the fans, with the environment, with my teammates, just be out there more than just a few minutes a game (and) just having an impact and feeling like I did something to help my team win and not just sit on the sideline and clap, even though that’s important.

“It felt good to leave my mark on the game.”

Andrew Platek Postgame Interview