UVA's local players bask in NCAA title run

MINNEAPOLIS (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Jayden Nixon could be forgiven for the slight slip of the tongue.

The St. Anne's-Belfield graduate was sitting at his stall in the Virginia locker room in the aftermath of the Cavaliers' victory over Texas Tech on Monday night. The 85-77 overtime win clinched the first NCAA championship in UVA men's basketball history.

In the excitement in the locker room on Monday, Nixon accidentally called the Cavaliers "state champs" before laughing and correcting himself.

A year ago, Nixon was at Choate Rosemary Hall, a prep school in Connecticut. He had already turned down one opportunity to walk on with the Wahoos, a decision he ultimately revisited and rethought last summer.

In the locker room on Monday, Nixon was asked about his path to Monday night's NCAA trophy presentation at US Bank Stadium.

“I mean, I had no idea," he said. "I knew we were good enough to do it, but I had no idea it would be this crazy, be this awesome. It’s such a great experience in total. So much hard work. It’s just great.”

Nixon is just one connection to the Charlottesville community on the Cavaliers' roster this season. Second-year manager Matt Palumbo was teammates with Nixon at STAB.

After watching the first two weekends of the NCAA Tournament at home, Palumbo was with the Wahoos at the Final Four.

“What’s resonating in my mind is Coach Bennett quoted Galatians 6. He said, ‘Don’t ever grow weary in doing a good thing, for in time you will reap a harvest,'" a teary-eyed Palumbo said in the locker room. "And that’s what this team has done, that’s what this program has done. They’ve endured, they’ve fought, and now they’re reaping the harvest.”

Sophomore forward Austin Katstra played at Albemarle High School, along with third-year manager and occasional walk-on player Grant Kersey. When the buzzer sounded at the end of Monday's victory, Kersey burst onto the floor to embrace roommate Kyle Guy.

“It honestly feels like a ’30 for 30,’" Kersey said in the locker room. "Like, it’s just the best story, from last year to this year, and how Coach Bennett preached to us how to handle the loss, and turn it into something special, and that’s exactly what we did.”

Katstra admitted that Minneapolis may have become his new favorite city following UVA's run to the NCAA title. When he walked on with the Wahoos last season, Katstra joined his father Dirk and grandfather Richard as family members to play basketball at UVA.

“It’s crazy. I think I have permanent bragging rights now," Katstra said. "It was so special just for me to have my family here, and be able to go in the stands and hug them, and just be with them.”



 
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