NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTEBOOK: All about Duke & UNC
What started as a way to help ease a family’s immeasurable pain has led to a wardrobe change for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
In December, a car accident in Saratoga County, N.Y., left two high school athletes dead and two more seriously injured.
One of teens who died was Deanna Rivers, who played softball at Shenendehowa High School. Krzyzewski reached out to Deanna’s parents, Duke fans Brian and Deborah Rivers, and invited them to Durham to attend a game and meet Krzyzewski.
They brough Krzyzewski a green bracelet that he has worn ever since.
“I told them that I would wear it,” Krzyzewski said Thursday. “So it’s an easy thing to do. It’s an amazing, amazing tragedy. I have three daughters and eight grandkids and I can’t even imagine that. I can’t even imagine it.”
Brian and Deborah Rivers are expected in the Wells Fargo Center today when Duke plays Albany.
Hauntingly, Rivers and Shenendehowa High School football player Chris Stewart were killed while returning home after watching Albany beat Siena 69-56 Dec. 1.
A 22-year-old Clifton Park, N.Y., man, Dennis Drue, was charged with 52 felonies in the accident, including aggravated vehicular homicide and driving while impaired.
AMILE JEFFERSON BACK HOME
PHILADELPHIA — Duke freshman Amile Jefferson is playing his first NCAA Tournament game — and in his hometown.
Jefferson, a 6-8 forward who has started seven games this season, is a Philly native who played high school ball in suburban Wynnewood.
“It’s exciting,” Jefferson said. “I’m really happy to be anywhere with this team. It’s a great bunch of guys. But to bring them to my home city really adds to it.”
Jefferson said he’s had a multitude of ticket requests and he’s handling the crush as best he can. “... It will be fun,” he said.
COLLINS FAMILY AND PHILLY FAMILIARITY
PHILADELPHIA — Duke associate head coach Chris Collins grew up in Chicago while his father, Doug, coached the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. But Chris Collins was born in Philadelphia while Doug Collins starred for the 76ers.
Chris Collins hung out in the family area at the since-demolished Spectrum with the children of other 76ers players who would go on to college and pro basketball careers. They included offspring of Mike Dunleavy (Mike Dunleavy Jr.), Henry Bibby (Mike Bibby), Harvey Catchings (Tamika Catchings) and Joe Bryant (Kobe Bryant).
“It’s crazy,” Chris Collins said. “We were all little kids running around the family room. It’s good to be back.”
Doug Collins is the 76ers head coach but not around at the moment — his Sixers are on a West Coast trip while Duke is in town.
Chris Collins isn’t the only family member with a big game today. His sister’s husband, Paul Romanczuk, will coach Philadelphia’s Archbishop Carroll High School in a state championship game tonight in Hershey, Pa.
1957 HERO LENNIE ROSENBLUTH RETURNS
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — UNC won its first national championship four blocks away from the Sprint Center at the Municipal Auditorium when it beat both Michigan State and Kansas (and Wilt Chamberlain) in triple overtime to cap a 32-0 season in 1957.
That location is still in use — last week it hosted the NAIA Division I men’s basketball championship — and former Tar Heel star Lennie Rosenbluth visited it Thursday.
Rosenbluth said the floorboards, the dim lighting and the analog clock were all the same as he remembered from 1957, when he was the national player of the year.
Today marks the first time UNC has returned to Kansas City for an NCAA Tournament game since Rosenbluth and company won it all in 1957.
OLE MISS STAR: SHOW ME THE MONEY
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Marshall Henderson watched Davidson’s Stephen Curry and BYU’s Jimmer Fridette go from obscurity to the NBA based on successful games in March. Now the Ole Miss guard is ready to make a similar jump in his NCAA Tournament debut.
“I’m trying to get paid here soon because I’m tired of doing all of this stuff for free, and so this is where you make the money,” Henderson said. “This is where you make a name for yourself and go down in history.”
The junior averages 20 points a game and led the 12th-seeded Rebels to their first NCAA appearance in 11 years. They will play No. 5 Wisconsin today at 12:40 p.m. (truTV).
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said Henderson’s outspoken nature and his on-court antics — he did the Gator chomp when the Rebels beat Florida in the SEC championship game — obscure his basketball ability. Henderson was named the SEC Tournament MVP.
“You watch him, it’s like watching NASCAR, waiting for the wreck,” Kennedy said. “He’s going real fast, oops, he didn’t wreck there, another turn. For us, it’s every day, man. It’s normal. His teammates accept it for what it is because they know that it’s genuine. It comes from a real place. It comes from a love of the game.”
Editor’s note — Duke beat writer Steve Wiseman reported from Philadelphia, UNC beat writer Harold Gutmann from Kansas City.