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UNC’s McCants recants on jail comment

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North Carolina guard Rashad McCants is required to go to class, to show up on time for practice and to attend study hall. He has very little of the freedom most college students take for granted.

And he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I love North Carolina," McCants said Tuesday. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't."

McCants and Tar Heels coach Roy Williams held a news conference in Chapel Hill, N.C., to explain comments McCants made to a local TV station last week.

In an interview that aired on WRAL-TV on Friday night, McCants compared playing college basketball to being in jail. He also said he considered his time in the program to be his job.

"It's to get up and go to school, get here and lift weights and play basketball," McCants said in the interview. "That's my 9-to-5. As my uncle said, I'm in jail right now. You're not allowed to do certain things, you're not allowed to say certain things.

"But once you get out of jail, you're free. So I'm just in my sentence, and I'm doing my time."

He said Tuesday he meant to give an example of how regimented his life is with the Tar Heels. As he told Williams when explaining the comments, he couldn't go anywhere during fall break like many of his classmates because he had to get ready for the start of practice.

"I do feel like there is a lot of things that are required for us to do," McCants said. "But this is what I love to do, and I want to make it my job someday."

The enigmatic McCants, who says he's misunderstood by people outside the team, led North Carolina in scoring last season with an average of 20 points. He started 29 of 30 games and was named to the all-Atlantic Coast Conference team and was a third-team All-America.

In a game against North Carolina-Wilmington last season, Williams sent McCants and teammate Jesse Holley to the locker room in the first half because he said they weren't cheering enough for their teammates on the court.

Williams downplayed the incident after the game, and he had no further problems with McCants.

This season, McCants returned with two new tattoos — "Born to be hated" on his right arm and "Dying to be loved" on his left. He talked about public perception of him earlier in the TV interview.

"The process of changing perception is like trying to get somebody to vote for you in an election," McCants said. "I don't think I can change anything about what people are saying about me. I can just be me."

Williams admittedly was angry Sunday when he first learned of the comments McCants made about prison, and he was equally upset about the reference to a 9-to-5 job. Williams' mother worked for 51 years in a mill — "Rashad has it a lot easier than my mother," Williams said — and when McCants showed up for practice that night, Williams told him to leave.

"I was really ticked off," he said. "I told Rashad there was a big difference in playing college basketball and being in jail. Like the game Monopoly, I told him I could just give him a 'Get out of jail free' card and he could leave."

Williams changed his mind after viewing the complete interview, which lasted about 10 minutes. McCants was introspective about his time at North Carolina and he talked about his excitement about the upcoming season.

"I thought the interview was very thoughtful," Williams said. "I guess the bottom line is I disagree with his use of the word jail."

UCONN GUARD HOME: Connecticut freshman guard A.J. Price has been released from the hospital two weeks after being admitted with a brain hemorrhage. Price has slowly improved since being airlifted to Hartford Hospital on Oct. 4. He was initially taken to a hospital near the campus in Storrs after complaining of a headache and flulike symptoms. On Monday, with coach Jim Calhoun standing nearby, Price walked out of the hospital with his parents and headed home to Amityville, N.Y. He hugged his coach, who had been a regular visitor at his bedside.

"I prayed that he got to walk out of the hospital," Calhoun said Tuesday. "Yesterday was a very emotional time."

NEW CHAIRMAN: Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage will become chairman of the NCAA basketball selection committee in 2005-06. He will succeed Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby, the committee chairman last year and this year, the NCAA said Tuesday.