My week in San Antonio could not have gone any faster. It seems like just yesterday I arrived in the Alamo city, a serene town that was still days away from being the center of the basketball universe.
I awoke Tuesday morning, hardly able to believe that just the night before I had reported on the NCAA national championship game.
What a ride.
When team media availability kicked of Thursday, I still felt like a fish out of water. Every few minutes I would bump into a writer who had been covering the Final Four much longer than I had been alive. This was rather intimidating and took awhile to wrap my brain around.
The first few press conferences and locker room availabilities were still a bit nerve racking. When I asked my first question in Jay Wright’s session on that opening afternoon, I felt as though I could go into cardiac arrest. This was not because the coach of the Villanova Wildcats is at all frightening. He’s incredibly friendly, but my inner perfectionist wanted to prove that I belonged there.
By the time Sunday and Monday rolled around, I felt like a seasoned veteran. Media breakout sessions and the periods of locker room availability were a breeze. I knew what questions to ask, who to ask, and was informed enough to sound like someone who belonged. And I realized I was.
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During the course of the week, I had talked to dozens of people I never thought I would meet, including players and coaches from Villanova and Kansas, Wildcat alumni Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono, plus Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and many more.
After the initial shock, I was no longer doing double takes in the hallway after passing by Charles Barkley, Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith, Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, and prominent media figures I had been reading since my life as a sports fan began.
A big part of feeling you belong is not placing others on a pedestal. While there were dozens of media members in San Antonio this weekend with more experience than I could dream of having, we were all there to do the same job.
That is one thing I will not forget.
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When I took a Sports Writing course in the fall of 2016, my sophomore year, my semester-long project was on the career of long-time Boston Globe reporter and columnist Bob Ryan. I had done a phone interview with Ryan and several of his colleagues, gaining more insight behind the mind of one of the greatest sports writers in the country. While I was seated prior to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association annual honors luncheon on Monday afternoon, I stood and turned for an introduction, only to be greeted by Mr. Ryan. I was taken aback by meeting the man whose career trajectory was something I would like to try and emulate.
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Being in the Alamodome for the semifinals and national championship game was all too surreal. When you watch events like that on television, you cannot truly grasp the magnitude you experience when you are there. The entire city of San Antonio was abuzz with fans from dawn until much after dusk.
The Alamodome was electrifying during each game, from a fairly even distribution of Loyola Chicago, Kansas, Villanova and Michigan fans during the semifinal games on Saturday night to a seemingly overwhelming sea of Michigan maize during the national championship. The fans made the experience that much more intense. The roar after a big block or a steal and transition dunk was almost paralyzing.
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The presentation of the games was also incredible. When the lights dimmed and music approached a crescendo before each game, that’s when the chills down my spine also began. The highlight packages for each team were visually stunning and the sound was deafening. The court serving as a projector screen for highlights and various graphics was surreal to witness first hand. My hairs were still standing on end even after the final buzzer sounded.
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Prior to leaving Indianapolis, I told my parents that they should be reading these postcards prior to my return, so that I would not have to answer a million questions. I chose to be a journalist because I love to ask questions, not answer them.
But over the last week I answered a lot of questions. Not the ones that others would ask, but the ones that I had for myself.
By Aidan Wilkins | @AidanJWilkins