Taylor Sharp ’16, a Morehead-Cain alumnus and extreme Carolina basketball fan, raised awareness for a basketball nonprofit in Zimbabwe and devised his own interdisciplinary studies major to examine the ways sports and societies interact.
Where there’s a Morehead-Cain, there’s a way
Taylor Sharp ’16 attributes much of his success as co-director and executive producer of the documentaryHoops Africa: Ubuntu Mattersto his time as a Morehead-Cain Scholar at UNC – Chapel Hill.
“I was so sure Chapel Hill was the place for me that it was the only school I applied to,” said Sharp. “But adding the Morehead-Cain experience elevated my time at UNC to new heights.”
While at Carolina, Sharp never missed an NCAA tournament basketball game — he traveled to Kansas City, Jacksonville, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Raleigh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Houston, easily making him one of the most committed Carolina basketball fans on campus.
But Sharp knew an even bigger fan: Anthony, a child with muscular dystrophy from Sharp’s hometown. Demonstrating a Morehead-Cain Scholar’s core values of generosity and empathy, Sharp surprised Anthony by introducing him to the team. He took Anthony on a private tour of the Carolina Basketball Museum and granted his family coveted tickets to the Carolina-Duke basketball game.
“In many ways, that memory — and the puzzle of orchestrating it — embody my Carolina experience,” recalled Sharp. “It showed me that for a UNC student, there’s no project that’s out of reach. This place has a special way of providing you with the people and resources you need when you have worthy intentions.”
From devising a new major to Hoops 4 Hope
Sharp’s love for sports influenced his extra-curricular experiences as well as his academic career.
He devised an interdisciplinary studies major that encompassed his deep interest in the ways sports and society interact.
Through this major, philosophy and business of sport, Sharp was able to combine his love of UNC Athletics with his academic and intellectual interests. His passion for this area of study compelled him to travel to Zimbabwe through the Morehead-Cain Summer Enrichment Program to volunteer with Hoops 4 Hope.
Hoops 4 Hope is a basketball nonprofit that, through athletics, aims to stimulate social change and spread the message of Ubuntu — of togetherness and a common bond of humanity — throughout communities in southern Africa.
After his transformative experience with the organization, Sharp made a vow to bring to life the stories of Hoops 4 Hope for viewers everywhere. He wanted to create a platform to spotlight the organization’s influential work that provides a life-changing experience to so many children every day.
“Weeks before the beginning of my senior year — and after two additional summer experiences working in Washington, D.C., under Sports Agent Jim Tanner ’90 and at the NBA in New York City under Malcom Turner ’93 — [a cinematographer and I] ventured back to where the idea for the film was born to create my first documentary,” shared Sharp.
In many ways,Hoops Africawas a culmination of the summer opportunities Sharp had at Carolina, through the support and network of the Morehead-Cain Foundation.
“The knowledge gained and relationships formed during my summer jobs certainly enabled me to get the NBA’s blessing to embark on this film,” added Sharp. “[This network] provided me with filming access to the NBA’s Historic Africa Game and scored me interviews with countless NBA greats.”
Catching the production bug
After successfully completingHoops Africa, Sharp feverishly caught the production bug. Pursuing his next creative endeavor, he met with a fellow Carolina alum, Holland Randolph Gallagher ’16, back in Chapel Hill to discuss producing a movie together.
“Fast-forward a year later, and we have one short film under our belts and many other joint projects in development,” said Sharp. “As an ode to the spirit of Chapel Hill, we named our company Blue Cup Productions, forever reminding us of Carolina and the special place we call home. It’s clear to me that while I’m no longer a student, my UNC experience is really just beginning.”
A community of excellence
As a Morehead-Cain Scholar, Sharp had access to an innovative and supportive community of excellence at Carolina. Embodying the message of Ubuntu, Sharp has actively sought to expand this community of excellence to all corners of the world.
“I feel so honored to have been a part of such a meaningful group and feel as though the program will serve as a lifelong community,” Sharp concluded. “I was simultaneously inspired and empowered by the people around me and the opportunities afforded to me through the Morehead-Cain, and I’m glad the scholarship will continue to recruit wonderful scholars across the globe to come study at UNC.”