News / USA

Basketball Fans Flock to Houston for the College Final Four

Butler players stretch during a practice for a men's NCAA Final Four semifinal college basketball game Friday, March 1, 2011, in Houston. Butler plays VCU on Saturday.
Butler players stretch during a practice for a men's NCAA Final Four semifinal college basketball game Friday, March 1, 2011, in Houston. Butler plays VCU on Saturday.

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Greg Flakus

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, better known as the NCAA, is holding its final four games for this year's men's basketball season in Houston, Texas. More than 70,000 fans are expected for the games, the first two of which are held on Saturday, with the winners from those games going on to the final match Monday. There is a lot of excitement in and around Reliant stadium, where the games take place.

Part of the thrill for basketball fans at this year's Final Four is that some lower-ranked teams managed to win some crucial games and get into the final competition.

One of them was 11th ranked Virginia Commonwealth University, or VCU.

Fans from VCU's home city of Richmond, Virginia stalk the players for autographs and even the coach, Shaka Smart, has become a celebrity.



Patti made the long trip from Richmond to support the team. “You know the town has just gone in total mayhem (excited and happy). They just love the boys and we are here to support them and show them that we are rooting for them," she said.

Of course, many of the people attending the events here are from Houston and nearby areas, but they have their favorites as well.

Sasha Richards coaches basketball in Tyler, Texas. “I like Kentucky. I like coach John Calipari. I think he is a great coach. I like what he has done with his young basketball team, so I am interested in seeing them practice," he said.

Another lower-ranked team, Butler University of Indianapolis, Indiana, called the Bulldogs, brought its mascot to cheer the players on.

Mascot caretaker Tiffany came from Indianapolis with her baby, Everett. “Everybody is pretty excited. I think the whole city has rallied around and they are excited and ready for the game," she said.

Why people support one team or another is sometimes hard to figure. Natalie is from Indiana, but she is not here for Butler. “I have been a UConn fan for a long time. I mean, I like Butler, but I like Uconn a little bit more," she said.

UConn is short for University of Connecticut, at three, it has the highest ranking of any of the teams in the Final Four, in large part because of star player Kemba Walker.

But the really big guy on the team is 213-centimeter tall Charles Okwandu, who was born and raised in Nigeria.

The 24-year-old senior says this is like a dream. “Every basketball player hopes and dreams to go to the Final Four and win the championship and I am from Nigeria and I am here right now. It is like a dream come true. I feel great and I am really happy to be here," he said.

Okwandu has been playing for Uconn since his sophomore year and has become a model for aspiring players back in Africa.

Assistant Coach Kevin Ollie says Charles Okwandu could help build sports programs for youth in his country. “Basketball has done wonders for my life and I know it has for Charles' life as well and, hopefully, he can be an ambassador when he goes back home and shows the fruit of the labor of playing basketball and teaching basketball to the students or young people back in Nigeria," he said.

The Final Four games also provide events for young people here to practice their skills throwing a ball through a hoop.

And when they tire of that, there are plenty of other events including free concerts, parties and dance performances.

There is a lot of excitement and a lot of entertainment available here in Houston for fans of the Final Four, but, in the end, it all comes down to the games and which team will emerge as this year's champion.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid