After an incredible run to the national championship game, North Carolina basketball players will capitalize on that success with the “Iron Five Tour.”
The four-stage event begins with a sold-out Wednesday night program at Gastonia (NC) Christian School. RJ Davis, Caleb Love, Leaky Black, Brady Manek, Armando Bacot, Puff Johnson and Dontrez Styles will take part in a Q&A, dinner, autograph session and photos with 200 fans who each purchased tickets at $100. Carolina basketball legend Phil Ford is the host.
“It’s not really a barnstorming event, it’s a NIL event presented by barnstorming people,” said Mike Sumner, who has been on barnstorming tours in the state for more than four decades, and whose the Sumner Sports company manages this one event. “We haven’t been able to barnstorm for two years. We had sites set up for this year, and we usually play with all four schools in the area, but there weren’t enough eligible players. We decided we wanted to do something for Carolina players to participate, along with NIL, and so we’re hosting four of these events across the state to celebrate their season.”
In the past, the barnstorming tour has been a scrum for North Carolina and ACC basketball players who have exhausted their college eligibility. Previously, after the season ended, players could start earning money for appearances. But the new name, image and likeness (NIL) rules now allow current college players who still have eligibility to win money. Therefore, UNC players are paid directly for their participation in the “Iron Five Tour”.
The other three in-state tour stops will be in Concord, Mocksville and a location to be determined. When the dates are finalized, tickets can be purchased at carolinabarnstorming.com.
UNC’s Iron Five starting lineup of Davis, Love, Black, Manek and Bacot led the Tar Heels to one of the most notable runs in program history in the final month of the season. season. North Carolina has won 11 of its last 13 games to end the regular season, including a win over Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. After going 1-1 in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels beat Marquette, Baylor, UCLA and Saint Peter’s to advance to the Final Four. UNC defeated Duke again in the national semifinals before losing to Kansas in the title game. The Iron Five recorded long minutes in the final two months of the regular season, with instances where starters remained on the field unsubstituted for entire halves or, in some cases, entire games.
“The main thing is to give people who don’t get to see the Tar Heels, to see them and thank them for their hard work,” Sumner said. “It’s been an amazing season and our main focus is what we do with barnstorming, bringing the game to the communities. There aren’t enough guys playing the games like we used to, but we felt like because of NIL and the Iron Five being so ingrained we wanted to relate to what they did it wasn’t just about a certain player it was the success that they had in as a team rather than individually, and we wanted to celebrate that. I’ve never seen a team with more heart and will to win than this group this year.”