UVA Celebs React To Championship

By Jerry Ratcliffe

MINNEAPOLIS — Lots of notable Virginia alums were at U.S. Bank Stadium to be part of Cavalier basketball history on Monday night when the program captured its first NCAA Final Four championship.

We managed to catch up with a few of them for comment after the game. Here’s what they told me:

Katie Couric waves at UVA fans Monday night.

KATIE COURIC (Television Journalist): “This is so exciting. It was so stressful, but this team has so much heart. As Tony Bennett said, never lost faith, and honestly, it’s magical to be able to be here and see them win a national championship for the first time. Charlottesville needs this.”

MALCOLM BROGDON (Milwaukee Bucks): “It’s amazing. It’s surreal to watch these guys, to be able to be a fan, root these guys on, and just, man, watch them accomplish greatness.

“Me, Joe (Harris), Devon (Hall), Anthony Gill, Akil Mitchell, Darion Atkins, guys like that, man — we all had a part in it, but cheering these guys on and supporting them is what we did this year. They pulled it out and it was amazing.

“Man, it was nerve-wracking. I was nervous, but I knew we would pull it out once we got into overtime. All we needed to do was tie the game up and go into overtime. It was UVA’s year for sure.”

JUSTIN ANDERSON (Atlanta Hawks): “Unbelievable. It’s an amazing feeling. These guys deserve this and it’s so great to be a part of this. This is an unbelievable experience for everyone that’s a part of the program. I’m just super proud right now.”

We asked Anderson about being part of the teams that helped build the foundation that led to a championship:

“It’s a big foundation. Obviously we believe in the pillars and Coach Bennett, and what he’s instilled in us, my teammates. This is just a surreal moment and we’re all just so proud and happy for the group that finally got a chance to do it.

“This showed our preparation, and it shows our poise, our character. These guys were prepared and it really showed in the end.”

CARLA WILLIAMS (Virginia Athletics Director): “It means so much. It’s really hard to describe what it means. I’m so very happy for Tony, for his staff, for these players, that went through so much adversity last year — and they were champions last year in my mind. The way they handled that adversity made them champions and so this is just kind of the crowning victory for everything that they’ve been through for the last year. Very proud, so very proud.

“You know what? It was nerve wracking, but deep down I always feel like we’d find a way to win because I did feel like we were destined to win it. Even though I was nervous, deep down I always felt like we would win.”

CHRIS LONG (Philadelphia Eagles): “It means everything as a fan. It’s almost like you have as much invested in being a fan as being a player, so this is the time that I get to really just live and die with it.

“You know what? Tonight I felt a real calm because we got off to a good start, we were getting good looks the whole first half, so I felt like if they stop hitting threes — which they really didn’t for a while — and we continued to get those looks, we were going to be fine.

“It was absolutely a long time coming.”

TIKI BARBER (CBS Sports national radio and TV talk show host): “Well I know it means more to them, but for me as an alum, this is a real sense of satisfaction. UVA has always been close but never there. Doing things the right way, fighting through resiliency and bad things that sometimes happen, like losing to a 16-seed, keep plugging — and Tony’s instilled a resiliency and a determination in these guys. It’s just, it’s inspiring. It really is.”

Team of destiny?

“You hate to put fate as the cause, but when everything seemed to be going awry, even in the Final Four game against Auburn, most of us had our heads down and would’ve counted that as a loss, and a miracle happened. Maybe it was a missed call on the double dribble, but Kyle calmly drilled three free throws to send us here and they took care of business.”



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