With the Final Four semifinal match-ups one day away, I had the opportunity as a student writer from the United Kingdom to visit the host venue for the finals which is being held in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium.
The four teams left all took very different journeys in making it to this year’s Final Four and have left experts guessing on the eventual champ. On arrival, I headed straight to the press conference area to attend the announce the winner of the USBWA Oscar Robertson Award, which is similar to the Heisman Trophy in college football.
Each year the recipient is announced around the Final Four, and it has been won previously by Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin, who are two NBA standouts. The 2014 winner selected by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association is Doug McDermott, a 6-8, 225-pounder from Ames, Iowa, who played all four years at Creighton but never made the Final Four.
Even though he didn’t make it to the Final Four which, he stated was “a dream of mine” and related “we can’t let that affect what we did in our four years.” He also thanked his teammates who helped make this happen to a player that almost gave up the game altogether when he was younger before his father changed his opinion while driving home from a game.
Interestingly he was also coached in college by his father Greg McDermott was also in attendance, smiled and stated “it’s been incredible” after being asked what it’s been like watching his son grow as a player through the years. He credits his son’s success to the simple reason that “he’s never been satisfied” with what he has achieved, he became all-conference as a freshman and an all-America as a sophomore but wants more from his game and has NBA aspirations.
The legendary Robertson presented the trophy named in his honor because he was the first player to win it in 1959 and answered several questions, including his thoughts on McDermott as a future NBA prospect “he has all the tools” Robertson also referred to McDermott as having a well-rounded game that can compete with the best players from around the world in a league where Robertson noted “those guys push a lot more” in reference to the NBA’s physical play.
After the morning press conference, I moved on to taking a brisk tour of the stadium, some of the highlights included the Cotton Bowl office, which had photos and trophies from the past and the press box where stadium staff mentioned that there will be “240 different organizations here tomorrow for the semi final match-ups” in what can only be described as one of the biggest press boxes in the world.
After the tour we headed court-side where UTA were playing in wheelchair exhibition for the fans in the stadium, and this was followed by the four teams’ afternoon practices.
An excited crowd estimated to be 2,000-plus by mid-afternoon gathered with fans from all over the country – all in great mood, buying merchandise, receiving free Reese’s Piece’s T-shirts and enjoying the food from the various food stands at AT&T Stadium.
Before the Wildcats went out to practice, I attended the Kentucky head coach press conference of John Calipari who shared a great insight of how he treats his players, how he taught them to grind out games at the start of the season when things weren’t going their way when, and he even stated that “not once have they come back on me and we work them hard.”
He also showed his humorous side when he stated “I’m not 35 anymore, I literally watch the history channel, have you seen that Alaska stuff?” he asked the media audience as the group laughed. Several Wildcats players later answered questions on how it felt to be in Dallas for the championship and how extra special it was for some of the players such as UK’s Julius Randle of Dallas and the Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew, from Richmond, Texas.