In this basketball-crazy land of Tobacco Road, there are two definite perceptions by the media and fans involving North Carolina State's "De Matha Connection."
Hawkeye Whitney, the freshman, is the leading candidate for rookie of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Kenny Carr, rookie of the year in 1974-75 and Olympian last year, has been one of the major disappointments of the current season despite having a share of the ACC scoring lead.
"It's wonderful from Hawkeye's point of view," said North Carolina State coach Norm Sloan. "But it's unfortunate and undeserved from Kenny's point of view."
They are the mainstays of this young Wolfpack team. Carr, with his stoic on-court mannerisms, leads the 15-10 Wolfpack in scoring and is ranked third in the ACC in rebounding.
Whitney, with the pizzaz that turns on fans, is the team's No. 2 scorer and No. 3 rebounder. His 14.9 scoring average is second best ever for an ACC freshman.
"Kenny Carr is the most misunderstood player by the fans that I've ever coached," said Sloan, whose highlight of 25 years of coaching was the 1974 national title. "He's a most intense player, but people think he's lackadaisical. You see Hawkeye's enthusiasm for the game. Kenny keeps his emotions to himself. He keeps a stoic look on his face."
David Thompson was another Wolfpack player who hardly ever showed his emotions on the court. But his play was visible - about two feet above the rim. Carr, the defending ACC scoring champion, gets the job done efficiently, so that when he does slam dunk on occasion, he only fosters the question: why doesn't he play this way all the time?
"It's something that Kenny and I talked about over the course of last summer," said Sloan. "But it's hard to smile and develop gestures just for the sake of the crowd.
"People went to the game looking for David Thompson to do something good. But people go looking for something to criticize Kenny for. You usually find what you look for."
"It's because Kenny's not a player like Clyde Austin (State's flamboyant freshman point guard)," Whitney said this morning. "You really don't notice what Kenny does on the court. The fans may see him make three jump shots in a row, but they don't watch real closely what he does. He takes charges. When he rebounds, they don't notice it. If people would stop trying to find bad things about him, and sit down and watch him, they'd feel different about him."
There is no way the fans can miss what Whitney does on the court. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward leads by example. In a recent game against Virginia he showed how he can inspire his team.
Whitney dashed the length of the court and blocked an attempted dunk by Cavalier forward Marc Iavaroni. The he hustled to the other end, dunked the ball himself and sent the Reynolds Coliseum crowd crazy. State soon had the game well in control.
"I try to keep things going," Whitney said. "By doing these things in the game, the other guys see how hard you're hustling and it rubs off on them because they see how much fun it really is."
Whitney is a coach's delight, cooed Sloan.
"He and Kenny, are very easy to coach," Sloan said. "Criticism is accepted and there's no sulking. Hawk-eye is even better than you should be at accepting it."
State's 10 defeats this year are almost twice as many losses as Whitney went through in a 77-6 three-year career at De Matha.
"How do you feel?" a well-wisher asked Whitney this morning.
"Terrible," replied Whitney.
And he was not referring to the charley horse or injured wrist he suffered in that 90-73 mashing by North Carolina Wednesday night at Chapel Hill.
"I find it hard to accept," Whitney said. "It's hard to explain; it's not a good feeling. When you lose you don't feel like doing anything but go back to your room and figure out what you did wrong. I work on whatever it takes to keep the team together.
"My goals just to come in and play hard. Give the team what it needs, just to be a winner. Most any (good) player who puts his mind to it could come to the ACC and play. It's just a matter of having confidence in yourself."
Sloan recruits the Washington area heavily now.He calls it his prime recruiting area, better than Philadelphia or New York. The man that saw something special in Whitney long before Sloan was John Garner, the basketball coach at Johnson Junior High School in Southeast Washington.
In an era when the public-school Interhigh League coaches were tying to keep the good players in the city, Garner went against the grain, suggested to Whitney that he go to a Catholic school and drew the outrage of his fellow public-school coaches.
"Coach Garner was more than a coach to me," Whitney said. "He was my best friend."
As a ninth-grader at De Matha, Whitney experienced the struglle that faces many athletes: the academic side of being a student-athlete. Whitney did not like the classwork or the homework assignments every night.
"I really didn't like classwork, but I knew what I wanted out of life. I decided instead of fighting it, I would get in the flow of it. It took about the first half of my freshman year."
Whitney wonders back now on that fateful conversation with Garner, steering him to private school, instead of Ballou, the public high school into which Johnson Junior High fed its students.
"He probably saw something in me that he didn't want to go to waste," said Whitney. "If I'd have wound up in public school, I might never have made it to college, or maybe some junior college in Texas or somewhere you've never heard of."