In a game featuring the highest combined seeds in the history of the national championship game, the Connecticut Huskies defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 at AT&T Stadium in North Texas to win the school’s fourth NCAA title. UConn is the first No. 7 seed ever to win the national championship.
We’ve got our own UConn National Champion on the team – EJ Harrison, who won the title in 1999! We caught up with him after practice to see what he thinks of the Huskies’ latest win!
Can you tell us about your time at UConn?
My time there was great. I spent 3 years there – my first 2 years I didn’t play too much but in my senior year I got some pretty good playing time and experience.
For the fans out there that don’t know what March Madness is can you tell us more about it?
March Madness is a tournament that runs through March and early April consists of 68 teams playing a knockout tournament – if you win your game you go through to the next round.
How big is it for a team to win the National Championship?
It’s huge. The 3 weeks of March Madness are probably the 2 biggest basketball weeks throughout the year, and if anyone watched the game last night they saw that it gets played in front of 80,000 people.
Did you stay up to watch the game last night?
I did! I haven’t been to sleep yet! After the game I was talking to a lot of people on Facebook and calling a lot of people – guys like me who have played there or are from Connecticut. Being from Connecticut we don’t have our own pro-sports team, so a lot of people support the college teams – we treat them like our pro team!
What did you think of the Huskies’ performance?
It was good. A great first half and a slightly sloppy second half performance. We pulled it out in the end and the main player, Shabazz Napier, did a great job and the second year coach, Kevin Ollie, lead the team very well from the side-lines.
How confident were you before the game that the Huskies would get the win?
After we beat Florida I knew that this would be our year! I was very confident.
At the start of March Madness how deep did you think the Huskies would go?
I’m going to be very honest here and admit that I had them going out in the Sweet 16. I didn’t think they’d make it this far, but they proved me wrong!
Can you take us back to what it was like for you to win UConn’s first Championship?
It was good. I didn’t get to play in the Final but I played in the semi-final against Ohio State. It was a great experience, my family got to come down and see the game. Most people around these parts know Carolina and some of the other big teams. At the time Connecticut was an upcoming team so to beat Duke in the Final was huge.
What happened for you after you won the Championship?
After we won the Championship I graduated and started playing here in the UK, so it was a great springboard for me.
What was it like for you to be in that big a spotlight when you were so young?
It was nothing. It was a great experience for me. In my hometown I got quite a lot of attention, but it wasn’t overwhelming for me.
What was is like playing with Rip Hamilton?
It was great. What he turned out to be I used to play against that every day. Him running around setting picks, shooting that mid-range jumper like you see in the NBA. I used to have to go against that every day – I saw his success coming.
What was it like to be coached my Jim Calhoun?
It was a great experience. He is a legend in basketball and a hall of famer. I learned so much from him that’s where I got my toughness from, he was a yeller so you had to learn to be tough and grow a thick skin.
Are you still in touch with any of your former teammates?
Yes, definitely. I was talking to a lot of them last night on Facebook. A lot of them were at the game too. We were just reminiscing about the good times. It was 15 years ago for me now, so you’ve just to move on. Two of my former teammates are assistant coaches on the team night now.
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