USA TODAY Sports’ Nicole Auerbach breaks down what fans should keep an eye on in the South region of the NCAA Tournament.

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Fashion has taken over parts of the sports world; NBA players like Russell Westbrook and NFL stars like Cam Newton have ensured that.

Shoes, hats, cropped pants, bright colors — everything is in play.

Shea Rush watched those fashionable postgame press conferences and noticed he was drawn to the hats in particular.

“I figured, ‘Wow, I really like that look, so I’m going to make my own,’ “ Rush said Thursday. “I ordered materials, looked up how to do it online and went for it.”

Rush started making hats in high school, “as a way to get my mind off the court and think about something else,” he said.

Rush, a UNC freshman, started wearing his handcrafted hats to games this season to go along with his suit. Teammates approached him about them a month ago, asking him if he could make hats for everyone.

Rush went around to his teammates to get their input on color, pinches, brim width, materials used for the band, painting and distressing.

“You definitely want a bigger brim for the bigger the guy; it’s got to be in proportion,” Rush said. “The little guys need ‘em a little smaller. You’ve got to make it fit the person.

“I also had to try and make sure the hat fits with all the hair. Our guys have a lot of hair. Joel (Berry) was tough. Justin (Jackson) was tough. You’ve got to make sure there’s room in there.”

So Rush went to work, and by the end of the month, he’d finished 24 hats — mostly fedoras, with a couple of cowboy hats in there — for the entire roster and the coaching staff.

REGION ANALYSIS: East | South | Midwest | West

BREAKOUT STARS: Six players ready for spotlight

THE SLIPPER FITS: 10 possible Cinderellas this year

BRACKET CHALLENGE: Make your selections

“I use beaver fur for the hat, steam the hat, sand the hat — there are a lot of steps that go into it,” Rush said. “I play so much basketball. It’s really just a way for me to lose myself in something else.”

UNC head coach Roy Williams said he and the entire team will wear them to dinner Thursday night. Rush expects at least the players to wear them to Friday’s game with their suits when No. 1 UNC takes on No. 16 Texas Southern here.

“They could be Mafia hats, who knows?” Williams said. “I like ’em. I’ve got one. … I don’t look good in a hat at all, may not look good anyway, but I know I don’t look good in a hat. But I’m going to try to put mine on. He asked me what color, what band, all that stuff. Hats by Shea. It’s a pretty neat deal.”

When asked if the hats have helped the team, Jackson said they have.

“It gives you a different type of confidence, I guess, to be able to pull it off,” Jackson said. “We’re blessed to have him.”

Said Pinson: “I look great in it.”

By the way, for those connecting the dots, North Carolina’s football coach’s name is Larry Fedora. Rush said he’s friends with Fedora’s daughter, and he “definitely” wants his own custom-made fedora.

“That’s next in line,” Rush said.



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