Win or lose, I did not want to miss being there.
As most know, I have loved everything Gamecock my entire life. What some may not know is that Gamecock men’s basketball has always been near or at the top of that list of all things Gamecock.
When I was child, I spent hours shooting hoops in hopes of one day becoming a member of the Gamecock men’s basketball program.
It was never to be as I am just at 6-foot-1 and in general realized as I reached into my teenage years that soccer was the sport that was going to be my route to a college scholarship.
Still, my passion for Gamecock basketball never dwindled.
In 1997, I even had to sit out the first half of a high school varsity soccer game because it was so important for me to watch the Gamecocks in the NCAA Tournament and I missed some of practice. The next year, I did not have to miss practice or game time, but you better believe I dropped everything to watch the Gamecocks in the NCAA Tournament.
I started graduate school at South Carolina in 2003, but when I went to work for the Nashville Sounds and finish graduate school at Middle Tennessee in 2004, I used my only so-called free off day from class during the spring semester to watch the Gamecocks in the NCAA Tournament.
I was born in 1980, so I do not remember much of the 1989 Gamecock tournament appearance, but I am told I watched.
Until this year, all of the tournament appearances in my lifetime as we all know had resulted in losses, which is why the past few days have been so special.
In fact, I made sure to not miss being there live on Sunday, March 19, to see the Gamecocks take on Duke.
That the round of 32 matchup was being played in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. was not lost on me either.
Sometimes being a Gamecock fan is tough, but in moments like the South Carolina baseball team winning back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011 you are reminded that even when things are tough the wait sometimes make it ever more special.
To have the Gamecocks beat a storied program like Duke in the round of 32 in my hometown with my father in attendance with me reminded this lifelong South Carolina fan that it truly is great to be a Gamecock.
Like I said, win or lose, I wanted to be there to support Frank Martin and his staff for all they have done to change Gamecock basketball forever.
South Carolina is lucky that Martin took the helm of the Gamecock men’s basketball years ago and did not listen to anybody tell him that you cannot win at South Carolina.
You can win at South Carolina, and you can make NCAA Tournament runs. It’s now been shown.
All of this is what makes the future so exciting.
Nobody really knows what the future holds, but we do know that the past is now behind us just like people saying you can’t make NCAA Tournament runs at South Carolina.
It’s definitely a great time to be a Gamecock.
**Column by Brian Hand/photo by Artie Walker**