When the public address announcer at the Dean Smith Center read off, "No. 0, Rasheed Sulaimon" during starting lineup introductions on Tuesday night, it was clear North Carolina fans hadn't forgotten. They booed Sulaimon all night, paying special attention to the 6'4 guard and former Duke Blue Devil.
"I just tried to do whatever I could to help my team win," said Sulaimon. "At the end of the day, I mean, it'd be hard to say I tuned [the crowd noise] out, because there's 20-plus thousand people, but I tried my best to try and invest all my energy into my team."
Having played at the Dean Dome twice before in his three years with Duke, he came into Tuesday night's game no stranger to playing in one of the toughest arenas in the country.
"[Sulaimon] played on a team that's probably the most hated team in America everywhere he went, so he's used to it," said coach Mark Turgeon. "He probably thrived on it."
He did exactly that, converting on five 3-point attempts to score 18 points. He added 3 assists, 3 rebounds, a block and a steal in No. 2 Maryland's tough-fought 89-81 loss to the No. 9 Tar Heels.
Maryland's starting backcourt, which includes phenom Melo Trimble – who finished the night with 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting – contributed to slightly more than half of the team's point total.
"[They wanted] to make a personal vendetta and get me out of my game," said Sulaimon. So I just tried to totally invest in our team and whatever the team needed me to do to help us win."
The Terrapins didn't escape with the win, but they played reasonably encouraging basketball in the second half, pulling what was a 13-point deficit in the first half to a 1-point lead midway through the second before things fell apart.
Sulaimon's 12-point second half effort was a major factor in the comeback.
"I'm glad we got him," Turgeon said. "He's a smart player. A good player. A great leader. I think I've got the best backcourt in the country."
Sulaimon may be Maryland's most important offseason addition, especially after the team's presumed starting shooting guard, Dion Wiley, tore his meniscus before the season's opener. His leadership is evident, something necessary when replacing the very vocal former Terrapin two-guard, Dez Wells.
"I felt his emotion before the game, and just how much he wanted to win this game," said Trimble. "During the game, I wasn't doing too good, and he just told me he was going to lead me."
The former Blue Devil is starting to mesh well in red and black.
"I'm a Maryland Terp now," said Sulaimon. "The past is the past, and you can only go forward in life."