Players and Coaches Return Home to a Hero's Welcome
After a streak of wins that ignited dreams of a victorious march through March Madness, the UNC Asheville men's basketball team came back to earth in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, falling to top seeded Pittsburgh, 74-51.
Players, coaches and staff received a hero's welcome upon their return to campus. Chancellor Anne Ponder told the "welcome home" rally how proud she was of the Bulldogs for the way the team "left all it's heart on the court," for representing the university so well, and for creating so much excitement in Asheville and throughout Western North Carolina. "It is great in these tough times to have terrific news," said Chancellor Ponder.
Coach Eddie Biedenbach said the team's success "shows what can happen when players sacrifice, communicate and work together." Biedenbach said he received e-mails and texts from other coaches across the country who noticed "what a great team we had, how hard we played."
Junior guard J.P. Primm, described by Biedenbach as the team's "inspirational leader," called the team "a brotherhood," and thanked his teammates for a feeling and an experience that "will stick with us forever." Coaches and players alike also credited Bulldog fans on and off campus for making a difference. Senior center Eric Stubbs said the "support has been so overwhelming - thank you."
Before the ride came to an end, the Bulldogs accomplished, earned and experienced many great things in this 2010-2011 season:
• National television exposure for John Williams' incredible pre-season dunk
• ESPN "top play" status for Matt Dickey's game-winning, buzzer-beating steal and 3-pointer
• An upset road victory in the Big South Conference Tournament championship game
• "All Conference" honors for Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm
• Keys to the City of Asheville, presented by Mayor Terry Bellamy
• A spot in the NCAA's Big Dance for the first time in 8 years
• That "presidential" feeling, in the words of J.P. Primm, that came with the charter plane ride to the First Four
• Winning the first game of the 2011 NCAA Tournament in overtime after trailing for all but 51 seconds of regulation
• "First Hero of the Tournament" headlines for Matt Dickey
• Coverage on national television and newspapers from New York to Los Angeles
• An even more "presidential" charter plane ride to Washington D.C.
• Seven straight victories at the time of the year that counts the most, after a season full of ups and downs
• Uniting students, alumni, faculty and staff, and making Bulldog fans of thousands outside of the university community
• In defeat as well as victory, winning the admiration, respect and gratitude of all of UNC Asheville.
In his closing words, Biedenbach said "this is not an end but a beginning - we have a great nucleus coming back and with our recruits, we should have more fun next year." Matt Dickey said he is looking forward to seeing this year's Big South Championship banner hanging in the new Kimmel arena when it opens next season, "and then getting another one."
In the Kimmel Arena's opening game, UNC Asheville will battle UNC Chapel Hill led by Coach Roy Williams. The Bulldogs have put everyone one notice – the Tar Heels had better bring their "A" game.