Sunday, March 30, 2008

Good Times

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Kansas

Sitting on the bus waiting to board the plane home, assistant director of marketing Jason Sabow leans up between the seats.

“Well, Lauren, I just gotta ask you,” he says. “Was it worth it?”

That he even had to ask makes me wonder about him a bit, but I cut him some slack because, well, we are all running on fumes here.

He is referring, of course, to my own personal Elite Eight journey, which included four flights, two hotel rooms, an 11-hour car ride with an extremely nice couple I met on Saturday morning at the airport, a baseball game and little to no sleep over a four-day (was it really only four days?) period, but he could have been talking to anyone in Davidson red.

There is no hesitation in my answer, though, “Can you imagine not being here?”

Jason’s last-hope shot had in fact gone in (and I watched again on Tivo, and it still wouldn’t... Why won’t it?), I had to be there. And if it didn’t, well, I had to be there for that too.

I knew I’d have to write this story eventually; I just didn’t know when. I thought it might be my first road-trip with the men’s team to
Elon, way back when, when Stephen (What more can I say? Does he still need the qualifiers?) Curry’s late-game heroics saved the day.

Then I thought it’d be
Greensboro, but the night again belonged to Steph, the Midwest Regional MVP (Rock chalk Jay Hawks).

Or the
Gonzaga game. Ordinarily, I title my stories by opponent on my computer, but I nearly saved that one as NCAA. Then I thought, what to do when they win? And they did. And they just kept on winning.

Since I started writing this column, the Wildcats hadn’t lost. I had nothing to do with that, of course, but writing about winning is easy. Writing about losing is hard.

Losing is hard.

It hurt bad last night. You could see it on Jason’s face as he crumpled to the court. Or SteF-in’s as he untucked and bit his jersey in defeat. Or on any one of the Davidson coaches’ and players’ as they went down the line to congratulate the other guys, the winners.

But this one was different in other ways.

Walking off the floor to the post-game press conference, I couldn’t make it a few feet without someone stopping me, “You guys have nothing to be ashamed of.” “What a great team.” “We have loved watching you and having you here.” “You’ll be back.”

The list goes on and on. For these very special days, TINY and SCRAPPY little Davidson was America’s sweetheart.

I couldn’t go anywhere this week without people asking, “Are the players really as nice as they seem?” “Is the coaching staff really as accessible?” “Is Davidson really that special?” The answer is yes, and then some, to all three.

Sports writers, they of the impartial and hardened media, across the country adopted these Wildcats, and after the game ...the loss, some big-time names give me sad and knowing disappointed looks of condolences.

In the locker room, the sadness is palpable. If the shot had fallen, you can imagine what the scene would have been. Oh, what could have been. But in this moment, every sleepless night is evident on the coaching staff’s face, every ounce of energy drained from the players.

There is no joy in Mudville. Mighty Casey has struck out.

In place of words, there are hugs, looks, pats on the back. Words are unnecessary because everyone is feeling the same emotion. So close.

It is hardest for the seniors, this being so close. Jason Richards,
Thomas Sander and Boris Meno have given so unselfishly of themselves over their careers, and the abrupt ending seems the cruelest for them.

As always, Jason handles himself beautifully in the post-game interviews, answering all the questions about the shot. It’s been his dream since he was a child, he admits, a game-winning shot to send your team to the Final Four, and in an instant, it is gone. If you’ve been there, you know what Jason is feeling, but how many have?

Before the game as I took my seat on press row, I greeted the Kansas SID at my side. We talked about our teams and wished each other luck. “One of us will be in San Antonio next weekend,” I said.

It is not me. It is not the Wildcats.

Afterwards at the hotel, I try to get to as many of the coaches and players as possible, and without knowing what else to say, I say, “Congratulations.” It doesn’t seem an appropriate greeting after a loss, and yet, it’s what I want to say to them.

As we sit on the bus and wait for a plane to take us home, assistant director of ticketing and roommate on this crazy ride, April Albritton has a song stuck in her head. You know the one.

Good times never seemed so good.

It is the song that has come to define a season. A season so good that we will always remember this crazy ride.

And yet, without the good times, there is no reference point for this moment. These feelings.

They make the good times feel so good.

This loss will hurt for a while, to be sure. But when it’s all said and done, it’s the good times that we will remember. The winning, the records, the championships, the banners.

Beyond that every story is personalized. Remember where you were when the Wildcats knocked off Gonzaga?
Georgetown? Wisconsin? Remember how you felt? Remember that.

And as we sat around eating pizza last night at Detroit’s Cheli’s Chili Bar for the umpteenth time, the talk turned to next season. There are more good times to come, we realize.

Next year is going to be fun.

The Last of the Davidson Basketball Diaries

By Preston Davis

“What if?”

We talk of ‘what ifs’ like they could still actually happen:

What if Steph would have hit that three while we were singing “Sweet Caroline?”
What if Jason would have hit that final three pointer that would have sent us to the Final Four?
What if we would have won and our group could be on our way to San Antonio in an RV?

“Stop,” says a broken-hearted Matt Hanson, who lives despite our earlier bets. “This isn’t doing us any good.”

Everyone goes quiet.

Five minutes later Matt says, “What if…”

We were so close. As close as one comes. Little ol’ Davidson College playing with the big boys.

Stephen Curry brought the ball up court with 16 seconds left and all of us on our feet, hands in the air—momentarily removed from our absorbed faces. Seconds ago the entire Davidson section chanted, “We-Be-Lieve”—I’m pretty sure the rest of Ford Field heard us chanting “We-Be-We,” but we knew what we said and what we meant, and I like to think the boys on the floor knew too.

10 seconds left. Score 59-57, Kansas leads. Steph goes left. We hold our breath. His defender falls. A glimmer of hope burst forth from all of us. Another defender steps up to guard him. Thomas tries to set a screen. Five seconds left. Jason Richards gets partially open—he’s been struggling for most of the game; and we think this could be his moment (our moment) to leave all of that in the past, grab hold of a regional final for the first time in school history and blaze a trail to San Antonio, shaking of the cold of Detroit as we smile on into the sun of the south.

Three seconds left. Steph finds Jason.

He shoots. We watch.

The ball bounces helplessly off the backboard. The arena goes soft for us. We don’t hear the Kansas fans. In fact, it seems most of us don’t believe it’s over. You can see it in everyone’s unwillingness to move. Like statues we go unemotional for a brief second with a collective exhale. We just gaze silently out on the scape of the court. Kansas fans and players gleefully celebrate. Don’t they know it’s not over.  This can’t be over. There must be something: a call the refs are about to make, more time on the clock, something—but not this.

Realization ends up overtaking disbelief. The Davidson band plays “Sweet Caroline” one last time for this season, and we all make a half-hearted attempt to sing it with our warn out voices sounding as depressed as the moment.

Steph Curry is the last player from Davidson off the court. Hundreds of amazing shots from this season go through my mind.

We try to find our way out of Detroit to make the 10-hour trip back home. With the detours, we get lost twice. To us, it seems like a glimpse of what hell is like.

At 2:30 in the morning we stop at a gas station in Richmond, Ky., to fill up. Rain soaks into our Davidson hoodies as we make our way inside. They sag off of us like rags from three days of tortuous, fervent wear. They match our exhausted faces, empty of enthusiasm.

We make our way to the Red Bulls. The clerk looks up.

“Davidson!” he yells.

We freeze, caught off guard.

“Man! Ya’ll sure do have a great team.” he keeps on enthusiastically. “I was rooting for you to the end. That Curry player sure is something.”

We all stand up a little straighter. We thank him and move to the door.

We climb back in Ol’ Glory and back-seat Rob makes a joke. We all laugh, and things feel almost all right.

I-75 gets back under our tires, and we watch the temperature climb slightly as the time toward daylight draws nearer. I begin to nod off in the middle of the van when I hear Matt Dellinger say with his first smile since the loss, “Man, Davidson played great this weekend.”

It rattles around in my brain as my body relaxes and I dream of more ‘what ifs.’

“Man, Davidson played great this weekend.”

“Davidson played great this weekend.”

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Elite Eight

By Preston Davis

It never felt in doubt, and my hands still haven’t left my head from all of the amazement. The entire second half my fingers either covered my mouth or grabbed my red hair from the pure madness of the whole scene.

Eight teams remain in America: eight schools, eight fan clubs, eight communities. Davidson is an Elite Eight team. Read it again: Davidson is an ELITE EIGHT TEAM.

Simply, we were loose. We knew we belonged on America’s biggest stage. A loose ball fell to McKillop’s feet he picked it up, dribbled through his legs twice, flashed his million-dollar smile, and sent a chest pass back to the refs. We began the verbal procession: BOB Mah-Kill-Up-ClapClapClapClapClap…

Our group sat behind Chris Alpert and Brandon “Ozone” Williams, two of Davidson’s best players since Bob McKillop took the reigns. During the dismantling of Wisconsin—especially the second half when Steph outscored the Badgers all on his lonesome—all these legends could do was shake their heads and smile.

Ford Field is monstrous. It has its own zip code. Our chants that usually rattle Belk Arena felt like they could barely even be heard near the court. 60,000 people at a basketball game. Are you kidding me?  60,000 people at a Davidson basketball game. Are you kidding me x2?

Even with all those numbers the place felt cavernous. That was until eight minutes left in the game when we started our anthem. Andrew Lovedale stepped to the foul line for an “and one.” We led by 15 at the time. We screamed “Sweet Caroline” at the top of our lungs. Andrew missed his free throw, but it didn’t faze us, or even the team. We were up by 15 then, and I don’t think anything could have brought us down.

Probably the biggest moment in the game: Steph slowly jogs down the left side of the court. He perfected his change of pace, blitzes by Michael Flowers—touted by some as the best defender in the nation—receives a bounce pass from Jason Richards (1 of his 13 assists), gets hit as he goes to the basket, spins in the air, flouts behind the backboard, throws up the ball with english, whistle blows, basket counts, and LeBron James—sitting behind the Davidson bench—goes ‘wow.’ LeBron James likes Steph. LeBron James is a Davidson College supporter. I go ‘wow.’

Dell and Sonya Curry leave the arena while many of the Davidson fans watch the Kansas/Villanova game. Everyone stands to applaud which simply says, “thank you for your son.”

During the Kansas pummeling of Villanova a Detroit high school teacher sitting in front of me keeps turning around to give me tips on what to write about, “You should talk about them being a Cinderella story.” I thank him for his astute observation. As he explains to me that Detroit is the city without consequences, he says, “We don’t even have this many people for a Lions’ game.”

A new cat has taken over Detroit.

Leaving the arena in the Detroit night, we, the fans, become the focus of all Detroit. We are celebrated by everyone we pass by for no more than wearing Davidson paraphernalia. The once ghost town Detroit lives, and lives to support Davidson. A Wisconsin fan asks “Hey, can you take pictures with me and pretend to kick the s**t out of me?” Another Wisconsin fan offers me $60 for my Davidson Soccer raincoat.

Yet, in all this hoopla, our group of 4 answered this question on Friday 21 times: “Where is Davidson?”

Instead of being annoyed with it, now, as ever, it’s a point of pride.

Come Sunday night, if you don’t know where Davidson is, just ask us. We’ll hopefully tell you: “On its way to San Antonio.”

Day of rest today, but there will be tons of press on Davidson. Davidson has never made it to a final four, but has gone to the elite eight twice before. I’ll tell you tomorrow how all of Davidson Nation is responding to the melee.

Friday, March 28, 2008

On The Road

By Preston Davis

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!""

Preston Davis ’06
Dorsett Clark ’05
Matt Hanson ’05
Matt Dellinger ’04
Rob Hawk ’00 (Our chaperone)

March has almost ended, but the madness remains; madness comes naturally for us now. It’s a sickness, a gift, and a pleasure. I’m no Sal Paradise and no one in our minivan ‘Ol Glory closely resembles Dean Moriarty, but we are here, a modern-day beat generation of sorts, mad for something so wonderful right here and now, racing toward Detroit—a motor to it’s brethren in Motor city.

5 pm –I’m making sure I have all the essentials: iPod with playlists including variances of “Sweet Caroline,” Davidson Sweet-16 shirts for donors (about as hard to find as snipes in the dark…the shirts that is), every Google map direction found from Davidson to Detroit, and an unbreakable spirit to ride against the night, all the way to Detroit. All of this for Davidson has been a journey; now many of us just put the foot to pedal to take a journey within a larger, more wondrous one.

6 pm – Matt Hanson and his shopping bag of cold medicine climb into my car. He coughs. “This is going to be awesome!” I agree. A 25-minute drive up I-77, a left onto I-40 East, we stare down the setting sun and then put the mile markers of NC behind us in favor of the plateau of TN. 

10 pm – We ease into Knoxville to hear from Dorsett that Chapel Hill put a hurting on Washington State. Dorsett meets us at the downtown Hampton Inn adorned totally in Carolina blue. Something must be done about this. We pile into our free hotel room for at best four hours of sleep. Big Thanks to Terry Hummel ’77 for the accommodations.

Midnight – In Bed.

1:30 am – Wide awake. Sickly Matt maintains a persistent cough during the few hours we have available to sleep. No one sleeps, we just pretend to. I dream, gleefully, of putting a pillow over his face.

You notice when you can’t sleep you only think of negative things? Goes for everyone. I watch the green indiglo of the clock tick away like gold slipping from my fingers. I don’t think of the good things: Andrew Lovedale’s offensive rebounds, Steph Curry going 8 for 10 beyond the ark, Thomas “The General” Sander—bad thumb and all—tirelessly forging ahead no matter the circumstances.

I could use these wonderful thoughts. But only nagging question pop up in my mind: did I set my out-of-office message? Could Matt have taken more Tussin?

2 am – I give up on sleep and begin reading

4 am – Out of the hotel, we consolidated in ‘Ol Glory! with the other half of our party that just arrived from Columbia: Matt Dellinger and Rob Hawk—a tandem of Davidson grads, now South Carolina law students, who have just driven four hours to get here. Despite it all, they are giddy. It’s infectious.

Dellinger’s first words, “I kind of feel like I’m stalking Steph. Everything makes me think of him.” Typically I would think that weird. But at 4 am on the day of the Sweet-16, it kind of makes me excited.

6 am – Just south of Lexington, KY, the capital of the state of “unbridled spirit.” Lightening and rain pound around us. My only comfort for such a foreboding scene is the hope that Wisconsin fans are subject to something similar. My body has begun to take on that vitriolic feeling of travel without sleep. Everyone else begins to show the same tell-tale signs.

8:20 am – Arrival to Cincinnati, home of Thomas Sander. The city possesses that lunch pail, hardhat mentality, and I can see Thomas Sander’s toughness in its rugged attributes.

Besides Dellinger and I, the crew sleeps in the back. We tear up I-75, through Ohio and the spine of America, where the eye can span out over flooded farmland and manufacturing America.

9:15 am – Dayton, OH. A city that looks like architects and engineers found as many beige Legos as possible, stacked them together, and proclaimed Dayton a city.

10:08 am – First signs for Detriot. 132 miles! Dellinger says, “you know if we take a right up here we can go toward Akron…Steph was born there.” I look at him but don’t respond.

10:30 am – Hanson begins to cough again. It’s official, he’s on his last leg. Rob Hawk has yet to say one word.

11:20 am – We hit mile marker 190 and everything goes snow white and stays that way for the rest of the trip. I think, “Isn’t March almost over?”

11:30 am – We circumvent the edges of Toledo. In unison we proclaim: “HOLY TOLEDO!” 50 miles to Detroit. I could even hear Rob Hawk. With everyone involved it feels like a road trip again.

Noon:30 – We pull into downtown Detroit. Everyone goes hush. Looking at the cityscape, the word barren comes to mind. It’s been 19 hours since Matt and I left Davidson. We look like zombies, but we fit right in. Detroit looks like a ghost town with vandals.

But there’s life here yet. You can sense it beneath its ice-covered surface. We find the Detroit Beer Company where all of Davidson’s alumni have convened. We watch our team on Sports Center, catch up with people we haven’t seen in years and Davidson College Athletic Director Jim Murphy promises us over 60,000 people in attendance at Ford Field tonight—the largest crowd in NCAA history.

Somewhere in middle America 7 buses carrying 400 Davidson students rush our way. We can’t be bothered with badgers now. Davidson red and black brought this nation to life last weekend. And we plan on doing it again, even if we have to bring life from a ghost town.

Game time 7:10

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Come one, Come All

By Preston Davis

The CBS Early Show made it to town, and with them a blurred understanding of who or what is actually causing all the raucous: outside media attention or our boys on the hardwood? It’s obvious the ‘Cats are the catalyst, but all the recognition makes for quite the hullaballoo. For Davidsonians, it’s like the circus just wheeled in—no elephants, just cameras and CBS Weather Anchor Dave Price with his production entourage.

They fawn over us. We fawn right back. I suppose when good news is in the air, we all become sycophants to a degree.

Staring at 6:30 this morning the Alvarez College Union became the place to be. Between the Early Show’s main story on the evolution of wedding cakes, the CBS studio shot to us to provide the nation’s weather report.

“Where’d all these people come from?” one soccer mom says to another soccer mom. Doesn’t she know? When the circus comes to town, everyone comes to town.

Scan the crowd. The parents and kids are back. The pep band plays the chorus of Sweet Caroline over and over; We scream it back at them, “SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” There’s a portly 20-something, shirtless, painted red, wearing a whiskered cat nose, tail dangling and some sort of domestic animal floppy ears—he looks like he escaped off the Island of Dr. Moreau. Suits and slobs intermingle to get a glimpse of Dave Price, everyone’s new best friend.  We all politely jostle for better position to see and be seen on national television.

Isn’t it funny that when a camera of consequence enters a room all bets are off and most all faculties of reason leave the mind? With our sheer numbers (400+) and our fervent screaming, Davidson, a gem of higher education in the south with its 23 Rhode Scholars, probably looked like a gaggle of maniacs on TV this morning.

Ain’t it grand?

But really, most of the time we grinned at the spectacle, made small talk and ate our Krispy Kreme. We watched Dave shoot basketball (he missed a lot); We watched him try to talk about Davidson basketball (he mispronounced Stephen’s name); We watched him play a pep band horn (children covered their ears). Despite all of that, we loved him every minute, and once the red light flickered on: SHOWTIME! Dave led the chant and we fell right in. LET’S GO CATS!!!... and on and on.

The TV cameras are nice, and we’re excited about them. But I don’t think focus has been lost. It’s still about our boys. And they in turn helped bring everything under the Davidson bar and diamond into the nation’s view. We know that all of this is a finite thing whether we go to finals or lose tomorrow.

We know come middle of next week CBS could easily be in someone else’s student union while we shake our heads, saying, “would you look at these maniacs.”

But for now we’ll take it all in. It’s all icing on the cake, wedding or not. It’s sweet and so good, so good.

Most likely I’m on the road now, somewhere between Davidson to Knoxville or Knoxville to Detroit with my 4 compatriots. When the sun wakes up tomorrow, I hope I will have beaten it to 8 mile.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Here and Now

By Preston Davis

I was 9 years old and the Davidson College soccer team was tied with San Diego in the final four of the NCAA tournament. 21 Educated Feet the NY Times proclaimed of Davidson’s team. The final four, played right here in Davidson, brought the town and area to a level of excitement that even a 9 year old could recognize as special. Last year, when I graduated from Davidson after playing soccer for four years, I wondered if I would ever see Davidson get to the same sporting success, in any sport.

I was hopeful yet dubious. Call it a mark of the human condition.

Davidson Basketball Coach Bob McKillop says when you walk on the Davidson campus you are transformed into a dreamer. I walk this campus everyday. Yep, still here. Took a job raising money for athletics here in the town that time forgot. I suppose now is a good time to tell you that I grew up in Mooresville. I’ve moved a total of 5 baby steps in my life. Some might call it debilitating, I call it a path toward conquest. But that’s neither here, nor there.

I tell you though, McKillop’s right. I’m still here, but I’m a dreamer too. And Davidosn dreamers have never been more alive than right now.

Davidson Fans around Charlotte and the nation, I wish you could see the campus right now with it’s romantics and it’s “head-in-the-clouders” everywhere, because they can and are justified in doing so. You can watch the campus and its community on TV or read about it in almost any publication in North America, but nothing substitutes the actual walking on this campus right here and right now.

The school store can’t stop selling red and black or anything that barley resembles Davidson Basketball—I have no doubt that America’s economy will see a bump do to the sell of Wildcat Sweet 16 t-shirts alone (I’m holding out for the Final Four ones…); satellite vans line half the curbs around campus, and reporters hang around the College Union to get a peak at “quirky” Davidson and what makes it tick; people already smile a lot in Davidson, but now it’s ridiculous—it’s like walking through Pleasantville before Toby McGuire showed up.

But it’s not the glitz, glamour, and publicity of Davidson College that you need to see—though that doesn’t hurt. I have to admit it is damn cool to see the nation enveloped in Davidson fever. I’m getting calls from people I haven’t talked to since camp at age 12. And, no, I cannot get you tickets for the game.

Of the glitz, at the moment my favorite comes from Kyle Whellingston (ESPN analyst), who has changed his personal news page from “Mid-Majority” to “Cat-Majority”—the caricatures of J-Rich and STEFF-in are priceless. Cat-Majority… What do you think? Too presumptuous to call the ‘Cats: America’s Team. Yeah, maybe a bit cavalier.

Here’s really what needs to be seen: the sharing of a great story. A story of hope—a Cinderella story at it’s best. I know I am biased, but if you were going to have a Cinderella, wouldn’t you want it to be Davidson College—a 1700 student body where the basketball players have the same academic requirements as every other Joe on campus, a place where the college and community are almost inseparable, a place where the Board of Trustees made the decision to pay the expenses of every student who can make it to the Sweet 16. No, really. I’m serious. The Davidson College Trustees will foot the bill for any student who wants to go to Detroit. What do you say to something like that? Really. I’m speechless.

All this is what you would have seen on campus today as the team rolled out of Baker Sports Complex at 6 pm on their way to Charlotte Douglas as they set out to the Motor City. A mix of everything and everyone was there to see ‘em off: faculty, staff, cameras, cheerleaders, the Football team with helmets in hands, Davidson College sports clothing that had not seen daylight sense the early 80’s, McKillop’s toilet papered house 100 yards off, parents, and 9 year olds with smiles on their faces because they know they are a part of something special.

We waved them off, just thinking of joining them on Friday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Back on Campus

By Will Bryan '08

"So is it pretty crazy back on your campus this morning?" asked Joe Reporter.

"Actually there aren't any students here because of Easter Break," answered Jason Richards.

It seemed so ironic that during Davidson's biggest weekend in decades, all of its students were home celebrating a religious holiday. But while the students did not come back until Tuesday evening for Wednesday classes, there was something very special and beautiful about this campus over the last two days.

The clues that something remarkable had happened were everywhere. The school police bought out the bookstore's supply of car flags (which was only about 15-20 to start with) and hooked them to the top of their windows. The Wildcat had a stuffed dog in its mouth, while Coach McKillop's house was covered in toilet paper.

Belk Arena was completely dark except for a small light deep in the dungeon of the complex. The Sports Information office was buzzing as phones rang with interview requests from all parts of the country. The lone printer buzzed and clanged as it printed off article after article from every newspaper in the country. The union was filled with mini basketball hoops, an arcade hoops game next to the fireplace, and full-sized basket in the bottom atrium where a handful of students played knockout.

A CBS film crew arrived on campus bright and early on Tuesday looking for scenic shots.

"We would have loved to have gotten shots of students going to class, but we got some incredible views of the sun coming up over the old well. This place is absolutely beautiful. The serenity of this morning made it seem so special."

But as the sun rose higher, the activity level followed a positive correlation. In just over two hours during the afternoon, most of the bookstore's new shipment of Sweet 16 shirts had sold out. Outside on Davidson's brick sidewalks, a local news crew got shots of members of Davidson's cheerleading squad and Mr. Cat. Students filled up the last available parking spots and made it to their room to find an email from the Dean of Students announcing that the CBS Early Show would be broadcasting live from Davidson on Thursday morning.

By the evening, campus was packed again. The Union Cafe was filled with kids sporting newly bought red t-shirts as we all replayed the events of the weekend over and over again.

"We are famous...I can't believe it."

Yes, we are. Yes, we are.

Monday, March 24, 2008

World, meet Davidson

By Will Bryan '08

Davidson is a college, not a university, located in North Carolina right outside of Charlotte. This school is home to 1,700 students with academic profiles comparable to the Ivy League schools of the north. Davidson students earn liberal arts degrees where they study music, history, english, Classics, math and science to cultivate a well-rounded academic experience. There is no such thing as a business, journalism, marketing or accounting major at Davidson. All of the athletes are held to the same academic standards as everyone else at Davidson and the basketball team is not given special tutors or study sessions to give them any edge.

Davidson takes pride in its basketball program. Davidson students own the national mark for highest percentage of a student body that attends basketball games throughout a season. The Davidson community has embraced the basketball program often with memories of the Elite 8 runs of Lefty Driesell when he coached Davidson in the 1960's.

Davidson's "song," Sweet Caroline, was started last year by a marketing assistant who knew how much students like to sing along at campus parties. After playing it during a conference home game, the crowd continued the chorus a cappella during an opponent's free throw and he missed. The song has been a staple of Davidson games ever since.

Davidson's Stephen Curry continues to be one of the best players in the country that people don't know that much about. He is the son of former NBA star Dell Curry and his name is pronounced Steff-in...not Steve-in or Steph-awwnn. He chose Davidson after being passed over from ACC schools for being too small. He has subsequently grown into the nation's leader in three-pointers and a second-team All-American. Curry will not be leaving Davidson this spring for the NBA. And it's not because he wouldn't be that high of a draft pick. If Davidson won the national championship, Curry would still stay.

Davidson point guard Jason Richards was a preseason nominee for the Bob Cousy Award for the best point guard in the country. He did not make it as a finalist in one of the worst errors by an awarding body in college basketball this season. Richards leads the nation in assists this season after finishing second last year, and has been the team leader on and off the court for the Sweet 16-bound Wildcats. Jason is not the son of Richard, so please stop calling him Jason Richardson. He plays for the Bobcats down the road.

Davidson scheduled one of the nation's toughest out-of-conference schedules as they took on UCLA, North Carolina and Duke. After dropping those games by an average of seven points, the Wildcats went on to lose games against WMU, Charlotte and N.C. State. Davidson was written off a small-time program trying to bite off more than they could chew. The national public saw six losses and thought the scheduling move was a failure because Davidson played itself out of the at-large picture. But the Wildcats haven't lost since their 1-point falter at N.C. State. They gained the confidence to play against Kevin Love and Tyler Hansbrough. Against Gonzaga's Heytfelt and Georgetown's Hibbert, they showed no fear. Those games directly link to Davidson's success in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

So that's us. That's Davidson. We've had to tell our story over and over again to the next big-time program that's come in front of us. But we kind of like it when everyone writes us off. We like it when the Southern Conference gets so sick and tired of us winning all the time. We like it when people taunt Stephen Curry by saying he's too young or Jason Richards by saying he's too slow. We like our odds from our 6-7ish frontline against your 7-0 frontline. We like it when you know you are going to beat us. We like that you have no idea what we are made of. We have the types of souls that don't quit when down 17 to a team from last year's Final Four. We always believe. Heck, we are David. Just give us a few more rocks for that slingshot, we have a few more giants to kill.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Aftermath

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Georgetown

“Did you write a Sweet 16 blog?”
Stephen (the man behind the mask) Curry asks around 2:30 p.m. on...what day is it? Tuesday?

When I tell him I didn’t, he seems disappointed. I begin to explain how busy I’ve been, but realize if anyone gets it, it is he.

And Joey Beeler, men’s basketball SID, who handles player requests.

“Right now in my inbox, I have 90 emails,” Beeler said. “In my deleted items, I have 178.”

And Marc Gignac, in his first season as Davidson’s sports information director, who handles Coach McKillop’s media requests.

“Oh geez,” he says when I ask how many emails he’s fielded over the last 48 hours. “Hang on... From Sunday through 3:43 p.m. this afternoon, it’s 332.”

And you don’t even want to know about the phone calls.

Earlier in the day, Marc steps out of his office, likely wandering up to the men’s basketball office, where he has been told, several times over, to get out and don’t come back. In jest, of course…This is fun.

When he comes back, no more than three minutes later, he checks his voicemail.

“You have eight new messages,” that female voice, the bane of his existence, says.

“Super,” he deadpans. If you didn’t know, Marc is pure deadpan.

Waiting for his turn in front of the camera on Monday afternoon, Stephen’s dad says, “It’s been crazy. I’ve heard from people I haven’t talked to in years. I feel like I’m playing again.”

And there is no containing this madness.

“I have 600 emails in my inbox right now,” associate head coach
Matt Matheny says. “But I probably had 200 or so before. So I’ve gotten around 300 this weekend.”

“Is your phone ringing off the hook?” he asks SteF-in outside my office door. “Mine’s off the hook.”

“Yes,” SteF-in sighs. There’s a new Facebook group called “Stephen Curry is the man” with 1,002 members and counting. After the Georgetown game, he got over 890 new friend requests. He currently has 1,331 friends on the networking site and has been tagged in 407 pictures.

“He got how many?” roommate
Bryant Barr asks, after being put on hold in the middle of an interview. (We all think this is funny, including Bryant.) “It will take him forever just to get through them. That’s insane.”

Never has there been so much energy in Davidson. And like the majority around the program, I have never been a part of something quite like it.

The madness started as soon as the horn sounded
on the ‘Cats 74-70 win over Georgetown on Sunday. I left Beeler a voicemail, screaming into the phone (I was very excited... you understand) after the game. This morning, he just got to it. “Why are you screaming in my phone?” he hisses, more than says.

Monday morning when I arrive, SteF-in is sitting in the corner on Beeler’s phone, getting ready to go on ESPN’s
Mike & Mike. We stand and watch the TV as Steph sits behind us answering questions. There is about a 30-second difference, which makes following difficult, but this is fun.

For the rest of the day, the phones don’t stop. At one point, we have
MAX, Jason and SteF-en doing interviews around the horn throughout the office.

My mom, an insta-fan, calls me later to tell me that Jason was on
WFNZ, my dad’s favorite radio station. “I know mom. He was sitting beside me, on my phone.” “He was sitting beside her!” she screams to my dad, as to myself I think, do they know what I do?

Around 1 p.m. we all realize we haven’t eaten, and I get nominated to pick up lunch for the marketing, ticketing and sports info offices, since Easter has shut down our trusty Wildcat Den, and I am also acting office secretary. At McAllister’s, the guy behind the counter spots SID assistant
Will Bryan’s Davidson basketball shirt and asks if we are with the team. We are not technically of course, but rather than explain we say yes. After breaking down the match up with us, he wishes us luck and sends us on our way, with everyone’s food but Marc’s (my fault, not theirs).

Back at Baker, there is major excitement for SteF-in’s appearance on
PTI, and director of basketball operations Jeremy Henney has come up with the idea of getting him involved in the role play. After much discussion, we decide on Jason, and Will Bryan is given the arts and crafts project of a lifetime.

My parents call to tell me Steph as Jason is a hit (thanks mom). I’m not sure where he got his lines, but writer to writer, “Steph Curry is nothing without me” is a winner.

As the week begins winding down (yes, I know it’s Tuesday... here’s hoping), the excitement keeps building. Unable to witness the Georgetown game in person, I will not let that be the case on Friday.

“Biggers is going to sell her soul if we make it to the Sweet 16,” Beeler says, prophetically, last week. On his way home from the office today, he calls to tell me that the lady at the movie store recognized him as “the guy hugging Stephen Curry on TV" and gave him his movies for free as a consequence. We think this is funny.

“But it’s my first Sweet 16,” I tell... beg... Marc.

“Mine too,” he says. I gave him half of my sandwich, and he gave me the credit card. Seems fair.

I leave Thursday.

Way back in November, we got the first shipments of men’s basketball media guides. As the rest started to pour in, Beeler began counting, adding and subtracting and all in his head.

“If we make it to the Sweet 16, we will run out,” he concludes.

But did we think it would really happen? (He and athletic trainer
Ray Beltz put their hair on the line, after all.) Those around the program and in the “sleepy little town” of Davidson knew it could happen, but did we really think it would?

We have 75 media guides left. It happened.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Our Own Story

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Gonzaga

In case you haven’t heard by now,
the tenth-seeded Davidson Wildcats beat the seventh-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Championship at the RBC Center in Raleigh on Friday afternoon.

By now, you’ve had the time to digest it, having read/watched/listened to anybody and everybody’s thoughts on the game. It was simultaneously the kind of game you talk about all day and for years to come, and it had all the necessary ingredients of an ESPN instanta-classic, that is, if ESPN could ever figure out how to get in on this bracket stuff in the first place.

It had also-rans turned big-time programs. Legendary TV commentators. Superstars in the front rows. Lead changes and game-winning REBOUNDS. And 40 points from
Stephen (Who's Your Daddy?) Curry. The only thing missing on Friday afternoon was TV Teddy, and well, his dance card must have been full.

For me, this story started around 5 a.m. Thursday morning. (Round trip: 43 hours and 402.7 miles). SID assistant Will Bryan and I left from Davidson around 8:30 a.m., skating into the team’s press conference and practice slot, with full intentions of enjoying our NCAA tournament experience to the fullest. We made a day of practice and press conferences, and I even posed the Davidson-Gonzaga question to North Carolina’s Roy Williams in the afternoon session. By now, you’ve heard that story.

“I’ve heard her tell this story eight times,” Davidson color man Logan Kosmalski said later in the day, as apparently, I told it a lot.

“If I remember correctly, we blew them out by four earlier in the year,” Williams offered, good-naturedly and sarcastically. “I wouldn’t call that a mid-major matchup. Those are two really good teams, and if I were just a fan of college basketball, that’d be a game I wouldn’t want to miss.”

For the crowd, that story started around 12:20 p.m. Friday afternoon.

The Wildcats took the floor to the pep band blaring “Welcome to the Jungle.” The Davidson faithful earned a smile of approval from
MAX Pauhlus Gosselin, the lights came on, and the ball went up.

Despite playing in front of an extremely friendly crowd, the ‘Cats seemed a bit tentative in the first half. The ‘Cats, of course, were down five at the break, with most of the Wildcat contingent feeling fortunate.

But if anyone on that court was as nervous as yours truly, it didn’t show. Fourteen points from the ever-steadying
Jason Richardshad Davidson right in the game at the break, and as everyone in red hoped, SteF caught fire to the tune of 30 points in the second.

For these Wildcats, the story started 365 days ago.

When the horn sounded on the almost-Maryland game, they dedicated themselves and their season to this day, and it all came down to the final 10 minutes.

With 13 to play, Davidson trails 10, and I was forced to think of that dreaded “what if” scenario, predictably, settling on “happy to have been here.”

Trailing 62-57, SteF-in gets a floater to go in the paint. After a Zag miss, Richards grabs the defensive board and tough-as-nails
Thomas Sander finds SteF for a three to knot the score.

62-62 with 9:26 to play.

I abandon my “happy-to-be here” notion, and nearly every bit of professionalism, and will now settle for nothing less than a W. I heard tales of legendary Georgetown play-by-play man standing and jumping on press row, and well, I’m toying with the idea now.

For the next several minutes, a mere point separates the teams. Richard connects with Steph to go up one, and seconds later, despite my urging, “Four fouls Steve, four fouls,”
SteVen Rossitermakes the lead three.

Gonzaga’s Steven Gray hits what feels like his 34th trey of the game to tie it, and I now understand how opposing SoCon teams must feel. Despite my wishing he wouldn’t, MAX takes a three and line drives it into the hole. I exhale. Apologize. Cats by one.

A made free throw by
Andrew LOVEdale gives Davidson a two-point cushion with just under three to play, and for some inexplicable reason the Gonzaga band chooses the “Hey” song for its timeout.

With hardly an empty seat in the house, these scrappy Wildcats have won over the rest of the crowd and promptly hijack the ‘Zags song as well. As suggested often lately by the man in the mirror, Davidson has stolen a lot of hearts this season, and I can barely field the text messages fast enough.

MAX takes another shot I’m not crazy about, but I don’t care, because well, have you watched him play? Time is of the essence now, and this place is starting to believe.

He misses, but there is LOVEdale with the biggest rebound of the game and a fresh 35 for his team. (I write “ANDREW!!!!!!!!!!!” in my notes, which I still think is a pretty accurate description.)

He, in turn, kicks it to Steph, and if this next three isn’t on YouTube, it will be by tomorrow, and the ‘Cats know it now. There is Thomas running on to the court to congratulate Andrew. There is Jason yelling, “Let’s go” at the crowd. There is Gonzaga burning its final timeout with 59 seconds to go, trailing three.

The ‘Zags get off a three, miss, and there is ANDREW!!!!!!!!! again. “I know you have to make Stephen the player of the game,” Billy Packer says, correctly, as LOVEdale wrestles through a pair of defenders. “But you don’t win these games without a Lovedale.”

Give the ball to Steph and send him to the line, I urge the bench in my head. But it is LOVEdale who is fouled, and he who makes the pair of freebies. Three more from Steph ice it, and this one is in the books, 82-76.

Bob McKillop, this story goes back 19 years.

“He eats, sleeps, breathes, lives Davidson basketball,” Steph tells the press room, much to the delight of Richards, who is looking very comfortable at the podium tonight.

Tens of questions later, leaving the press conference to rejoin his team’s locker room celebration, the winning coach smiles, free of all monkeys, and offers, “I’ve never done that before.”

Indeed, this year’s NCAA CD will be full of smiling press conference photos.

For Davidson College, the story goes back much, much farther. We’ve all heard that story.

And today, we got our own.

Monday, March 10, 2008


By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Elon

Whenever I struggled with an opening to an essay in school, I went back to the old standby.

Webster’s dictionary defines perfection, as the quality or state of being perfect, as freedom from fault or defect, maturity or the quality or state of being saintly. (Well, we can eliminate that last part. Sorry fellas, nothing personal, but saintly you ain’t.)

Or as an exemplification of supreme excellence, an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence. Hm, better.

Finishing a conference season AND winning a sudden-death tournament with an unblemished – yes, perfect – record is a seriously good accomplishment. But what does it mean to be truly perfect?

“Flawless,” says
Stephen (Most Valuable Playa) Curry.

Are you flawless? “Not yet. We gotta win some tournament games.”

“Without flaw,” agrees director of basketball operations
Jeremy Henney.

“Put a mirror in front of me,” says an assistant basketball coach. I’ll let you guess which one.

I’m not much of a movie person. I very much enjoy going to the movies, but I will rarely, if ever, sit down and watch a movie simply for the sake of watching a movie. But there is one movie that I will watch no matter how many times TNT airs it (okay, two if you count Legally Blonde), and tonight it’s plenty applicable.

Remember the Titans? The Titans are, of course, on their way to a perfect season (say what?), but nearly stumble on a roadblock (pesky, pesky phoenix...), and are in dire need of that perfect half-time speech that probably really only happens in the movies.

The ever-dapper Denzel, er, Coach Boone, tells his guys, “It's all right. We're in a fight. You boys are doing all that you can do. Anybody can see that. Win or lose... We gonna walk out of this stadium tonight with our heads held high. Do your best. That's all anybody can ask for.”


“No, it ain't coach,” Julius, star defensive end, disagrees, “With all due respect, uh, you demanded more of us. You demanded perfection. Now, I ain't saying that I'm perfect, 'cause I'm not. And I ain't gonna never be. None of us are.”

No, not even you Mr. Curry. Or you
Mr. Richards.

“But we have won every single game we have played till now. So this team is perfect. We stepped out on that field that way tonight. And, uh, if it's all the same to you, Coach Boone, that's how we want to leave it.”

In my humble estimation that’s the best way I can summarize this season. This team is perfect.

Taken apart they are just guys who sometimes make big plays –
Max disrupting the inbounds for the umpteenth time, Steph/Bryantwith the daggers, Jason with the cutters – and guys that sometimes don’t.

You can pick something that each does great –
Thomas taking a charge, LOVEdale with that baby hook, Jason, Steph, well, you know those two. MAX the defense. Will, the hair. Boris, the tomahawk. . Where Steve is the muscle, Bryant is the flare.

But divided that’s all. You need them all for perfection... Together, they are perfect.

And before you say anything, I know there are more games to be played, but there’s plenty more where that third straight SoCon championship came from, which is why I settled on the last definition.

Perfection is the act or process of perfecting.

Blog on Davidson Athletics

Welcome to the official blog of the Davidson Wildcats! Take an inside look at the world of college athletics from Davidson players, coaches and staff.

Search This Blog