Posted: 03/23/2012 | Last updated: March 23, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Lehigh University's standout shooting guard C.J. McCollum reflects on the Mountain Hawks' victory over Duke University and his experiences that followed. Below are his words in a guest column for The Brown and White. Click here to view the article on the Brown and White website.
As I sit in my room on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, and reminisce over all the things I've been through, it's amazing to see the transformation our team has made, not just from a basketball standpoint, but from a maturity standpoint as well.
Our goal as a team was to not only win the Patriot League tournament, but to leave our mark in the NCAA Tournament as well, and after reflecting on the weekend, we did just that.
Our fan support was great as we had a ton of alumni, family and friends come out for the games. Not only did we gain support at the game but alumni all over the country were proud of us and supported us throughout the process, which made us very excited. It was also nice to see that students at home enjoyed the win on campus as well. From the looks of some of the videos that went viral and were sent to me students on campus enjoyed themselves to say the least.
The fact that Lehigh was trending on Twitter, and was one of the lead searches on Google, just shows the amount of publicity we were able to generate for Lehigh and the Patriot League.
As I reflect over the weekend, the things that stick out to me most are the times we spent off the court bonding. In between practices and games were the funniest moments because all our personalities come out, and it creates a pretty comical environment. The chartered flights are very memorable, especially since some of our teammates were fortunate enough to sit first class for the first time in their lives, including myself. I must admit that was a great experience.
Beyond the flights, the experience of playing in the tournament, sitting in press conferences and having media flood your locker room is probably one of the best experiences you can have as a collegiate athlete. We were able to not only gain publicity for our school and our respective conference, but for ourselves as student-athletes who can excel at a high level against top-notch competition.
Our weekend was jam-packed with practices, film, dinners and rarely any down time. Although we were busy, I was privileged enough to do an interview with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Coach Steve Lavin and Greg Gumbel. For the record, Charles Barkley is a very funny man and one of my personal favorites because of his personality.
Besides meeting him, I was fortunate enough to speak to, and take a picture with, Lehigh great Daren Queenan. He is currently Lehigh's all time leading scorer and has his jersey retired in Stabler Arena. That was an honor I will cherish.
Another memory that sticks with me is the amount of media attention we received on a national level all across the country after the greatest victory in school history. ESPN, CBS and every other major sports service roamed around our locker room after the game and demanded interview requests from our Assistant Director Justin Lafleur.
From the upset over Duke, to the chance to be the first No. 15 seed ever in the "Sweet 16," words really don't give justice to the type of emotions Lehigh basketball experienced. I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to attend Lehigh University and will be forever grateful of everything I've been able to go through. Nothing compares to the amount of fun a team can have together on road trips.
Athletes reading this understand just how funny a team dinner can be, down time in your hotel room or walking down the street in an unfamiliar place with your family at your side. The treatment we received from Tarheel fans was unbelievable starting from the moment we arrived in North Carolina. The Carolina fans not only came and watched our open practice but gave us standing ovations at the end of it and chanted, "Beat Duke." They also played a key role with our fan support in helping us beat Duke.
Lehigh basketball will forever be remembered for beating Duke, but I will always remember the moments we spent time together in practice and the work it took to build the chemistry that made us virtually unstoppable down the stretch of this season. As a team we went from being told we had no chance at beating Duke (1.18 percent of brackets out of 6.45 million picked the upset according to ESPN), to boasting smiles on the front of ESPN.com and doing live interviews on ESPN and CBS. The tide changed quickly and no matter what happens in the future, Lehigh will be remembered for academics, and our basketball team will be known as "giant-killers."