Friday, April 11, 2008

NCAA Tournament-Then and Now

View of the Jajhawks cutting down the nets from my seat in the San Antonio SBC Center.

I couldn't help but smile as I sat center court on April 7th, 2008 watching the confetti fall from the cavernous Alamodome rooftop to the court below. The Kansas Jayhawks had just won a game for the ages, beating the mighty Memphis Tigers in overtime to become the 2008 NCAA basketball champions. I was rooting marginally for the Memphis kids to win, I guess basically because I liked their frenetic style of play. But there were other feelings in play.

My mind wandered back over the years when the Texas D-1 Ambassadors had crossed paths with two of the Memphis players; Pierre Niles and WIllie Kemp. The Memphis YOMCA Tigers were as good a team as any on the AAU circuit in the summer of 2003. with those two as their nucleus. We weren't too shabby either; with future college players, Rice guard Bryan Beasely, South Alabama guard Chip Ivany, University of Texas-San Antonio F Leslie Jackson, Stanford Cardinal Will Paul and Arizona wide receiver Terrell Reese. We were no match for them though when we played them in their home State of Tennessee.

After a moment I came out of my trance to see #00, Darrell Arthur cutting down the nets. The 6'9" 225lb sophomore from Dallas South Oak Cliff High School had come a long way. You could see the confidence exude from him all game long in what was likely his college swan song before taking his game to the pros. I met Darrell years back when he was a shy 7th grader and I had the pleasure to coach him a couple of times when we used to trade players off occasionally with Team Texas for major tournaments. The DA that I remember in the 7th grade was 6'5" and about 140 lbs soaking wet. Even then he was known as "Slim Shady".

When I got home after the game I started digging through old scrap books. I thought you basketball fans would appreciate this old picture from 2001. It was taken on a trip to Chicago where incidentally we lost the championship game that night in double overtime when a member of the Chicago Demons hit a last second shot from 3/4 court! In the front row of the pic to the far left is a younger Coach Max. Next to him, hat pulled low is Vanderbilt guard Jermaine Beal. Front row furthest to the right is South Alabama G Chip Ivany. In the back row, the 2nd tallest player on the team is none other than Kansas Jayhawk, Darrell Arthur. Congratulations on being an NCAA Champion and a future pro.

I will be 50 years old here in a few days, but it's memories like this that make me feel young, and my life having been enriched by being around our players. Thanks to these three boys and all of the other wonderful kids who've made the Texas D-1 Ambassadors program a success.

Coach Max
Texas D-1 Ambassadors