Editor's note: Texas point guard Jamie Carey will share a diary with ESPN.com throughout the NCAA Tournament.
Hey, everyone! Hello once again! I am sitting in my hotel room in Seattle, Washington -- which by the way I pronounce "wORshington," something my teammates make fun of me for. We are here for the West Regionals and our game against LSU on Saturday.
Looking back over the past week, I become a little overwhelmed with what has occurred. After the Selection Show two Sundays ago, Coach Conradt decided to give our team a few days off. I honestly think that was the very best thing for our team, as we were all a little beat up and tired mentally and physically.
Many of my Longhorn teammates live close enough to their homes, and they were able to return there for the off-days on Monday and Tuesday of last week. Personally, Colorado wasn't quite close enough for me to get home, so I spent my off days relaxing with friends at the lakes in Austin. The first day (Monday), I lay at the top of a "mountain" (Mt. Bonnell) in northwest Austin which overlooks Lake Austin and our beautiful city. The second day, I went to Lake Travis, a beautiful lake just outside of Austin, and watched all the water skiers and wake boarders. It was highly entertaining and relaxing!
After taking those two days off, our team returned on Wednesday, ready to get to work and a little hungrier to play than when we left.
Next on our plate was Southern University in an NCAA first-round game on our home court, the Erwin Center. We spent the week getting back into the flow of things, working on our offensive flow and our defensive intensity. In the few days leading up to the Southern game, we worked specifically on the Jaguars' tendencies. When the game arrived, we seemed to be ready and jumped on them early. Southern played very, very hard and never gave up, something I very much respect.
One thing I really enjoyed from the Southern game was the Jaguars' band. They were awesome and highly entertaining. Ironically, the next day, I ran into a man on campus who had been a part of the Southern band a few years ago. He told me how prestigious their band and music program is. He also relayed that they were asked to be one of the bands in the movie, Drumline. The Southern band instructor declined the offer because in the film, his band would have had to lose in the finals, and he didn't want his band to have to lose to anybody! I thought that was fascinating information, and it was a joy to hear and see them perform.
A moment to remember
Next up was Michigan State two nights later in our final home game of the year. I remembered watching the Spartans a few times throughout the year and being very impressed with their play.
MSU is a very good team with many dimensions from a very good Big Ten Conference. We knew we would have to come out ready to play from the start. The game went well; we had really good inside-out play, and we took care of the most important part, getting the "W."
Although the game and the result were great, the best part was when Coach Conradt took Stacy Stephens, our only senior, out of the game for the very last time at the Erwin Center. The crowd immediately responded with a roar, and gave Stacy a standing ovation that gave me chills; I can't even imagine how she felt when she saw it and heard it. Then the fans -- more than 8,000 of them! -- began chanting, "Thank you, Stacy, Thank you Stacy" over and over.
It brought tears to my eyes to see the crowd thank her for everything she has done for our program. Stacy has been the foundation for the resurgence of our Texas basketball program. We had back-to-back undefeated home seasons the last two years, and won two Big 12 regular-season titles, a Big 12 tournament championship, and of course, had our Final Four appearance last year. Stacy has been a huge part of all of that. The fans gave a tremendous tribute to a wonderful player, who is even a better person than she is basketball player. So Stacy, also from your teammates, THANK YOU!
Right after the game, Stacy and I were being interviewed on ESPN by Ann Meyers, and I heard the UT band playing -- and our teammates and crowd singing "The Eyes of Texas". This is our school song which we sing, with "horns up," after each athletic contest. It is our traditional game-ending moment, and I looked over and saw Stacy standing there with Ann and I, her right hand raised high with the "Hook 'em 'Horns" sign. I don't know if they showed that on ESPN, but I know how proud Stacy is to have been a Longhorn and close out her home career the way we did Tuesday night.
After "The Eyes" were sung and our interview was over, we stood together in a team huddle at midcourt. Stacy broke from our team huddle and ran around the court, waving and thanking the crowd with her "Horns up"! She spontaneously ran toward the crowd and starting high-fiving everyone and thanking them for their support, and the rest of us quickly followed. It was a perfect ending -- having the fans come down from the stands, 10 or 11 deep, cheering for us and getting autographs, and we in turn thanking them as we went around the court, with Stacy leading us all the way. It was a perfect way for us to say "thanks" back to those who have supported us and helped make our Erwin Center such a tough place to play for our opponents!
Afterwards in the locker room, we had some special fans who talked to us and gave us encouragement for the rest of the Tournament. Former Texas governor Ann Richards, who is a long-time fan of our program, spoke to us, as did our University President, Dr. Larry Faulkner, our head football coach Mack Brown, and other friends of our program. We really appreciate their support, their words and their time! It really was a special evening for all of us.
Now that the first two NCAA rounds are done, we have another big challenge ahead of us. Like I mentioned before, we play LSU on Saturday evening (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) here in Seattle. The Lady Tigers are another great team with tremendous athleticism. We are all looking forward to the game and extremely excited about another opportunity to step on the floor together!
Until next time,