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

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

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs