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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid