The NCAA Tournament: A Sports Writer’s Dream
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Somewhere between the time the 15-seeded NKU Norse fell in their first ever NCAA Tournament game to the two-seeded Kentucky Wildcats and when I exited Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, I was walking through the tunnel that connects the court to the media work area underneath the arena.
Walking next to me was a tall man with a briefcase rolling quietly behind him. At first it doesn’t connect, but the second look I give the man sparks something in me.
“Is that Grant Hill?” I think to myself. It takes me a view more seconds to confirm it was the 7-time NBA All-Star turned CBS broadcaster.
Just as we exit the tunnel I finally introduce myself.
“Are you Grant Hill,” I say stupidly just to make sure I’m not imagining things.
“Yes,” he says back.
We walk in silence for a couple seconds. I didn’t plan this moment out fully before I started. I proceed to tell him I am a reporter for the student newspaper at NKU.
“You should be happy with how your team played today,” Hill said.
I agree. He meets a group of people just outside the tunnel and I walk off to complete my story for the night, still star struck and struggling to find any form of speech.
That awkward conversation between one of the greatest basketball players ever and I was just one of the incredible moments that occurred during my first crack at covering the NCAA Tournament.
Being able to cover one of the biggest sporting events in the country was one of the great joys in my young life. The moment I entered the arena I knew for sure that I wanted to continue to pursue sports writing as my career and I couldn’t have been more excited.
I was in awe of the tunnel that served as the media area in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. I’d never seen so many media members in my life. There were over 50 tables in the media area with hundreds of media members writing stories and editing photographs. The podium that the coaches and players conducted press conferences sat in the middle of the area, surrounded by black curtain on three sides and was nearly six feet off the ground.
My awe only increased as we walked onto the court, where we discovered our seats were just to the left of midcourt and two rows deep. I felt like a little kid again as I looked around at the thousands of fans gathered in the area
The view was perfect. Across the way I could see Jim Nantz, Bill Raferty and Hill preparing to broadcast. We were able to catch the entire Wichita State vs Dayton game, where I was thoroughly entertained by Dayton coach Archie Miller’s gyrations and constant laments of the referees.
The atmosphere was electric. There was never a time when the arena was quiet. You could tell the coaches were screaming, but you couldn’t hear what they were screaming or who they were screaming at.
Watching NKU play one of the top teams in the nation (and a team I grew up adoring) and seeing them compete was incredible. No one actually believed the Norse would keep the game close, no matter how much they said it.
Seeing Lavone Holland II blow by De’Aaron Fox for a big dunk and Carson Williams dominating Derek Willis in the second half was fun to watch. Watching UK play on TV is nothing like watching them at halfcourt. The Wildcat players are lightning quick and ultimately the Norse just couldn’t keep up.
Athletes always talk about the pressure to perform well during big games. Well, it’s the same way for sports writers. You have to bring your A game to cover a big sporting event or your readers will discredit you.
I thoroughly believe we at the Northerner brought our A game to cover the NCAA Tournament. From the social media work prior to and during the game, to Colin Johnson’s excellent photography work, to Matt Sexton’s incredible writing before the tournament and after the tournament, we have given the Northerner credit as the most reliable source for NKU sports in the area.
Meanwhile, my dream to become a sports writer was fully realized. I have no doubts I will be covering more NCAA Tournament games in the future, hopefully starting next year when the Norse make the tournament again.