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The University of Arizona is certainly a unique and special place. As soon as you walk on to campus you’re able to understand why. The sun setting behind old main. The playing of our ‘Bear Down’ fight song at high noon every day. Standing on the mall taking in the cool breeze on a 70 degree and sunny February afternoon. The UA is special for many reasons, but for me, there’s one place which truly makes my heart sing. McKale Memorial Center.
I attended my first basketball game when I was five years old. We were playing UCONN. We lost. I cried. However, I knew in that very moment I was going to be absolutely hooked on Arizona basketball. I absolutely love Arizona football and our other incredible sports, but being a basketball player myself, I had this special connection to our basketball team. When we lost to Illinois in the Elite Eight in 2005 I locked myself in my room for three days because I was so upset (we blew a 15 point lead with four minutes left in the game!!!!). When Derrick Williams led the 2011 squad to beat #1 seed Duke in the Sweet 16 I was elevated to pure nirvana. Some kids dream of being an astronaut, I simply dreamed of being in McKale deep within the ZonaZoo. Where it was socially acceptable to scream your head off the entire game. Where those around me would also hang on every pass, shot, and dribble as I had my entire life. Now that my dream has been fulfilled for roughly a year and a half now, the experience still doesn’t feel real.
During our latest drubbing of Arizona State University earlier in January, I arrived to the stadium two hours early as per usual. Normally during this period before the game tips off I go grab food, chat with friends, watch Chance Comanche and Rawle Alkins launch halfcourt shots, etc. However this time I spent my time reflecting on what McKale meant to me. My fifteen years spent in this building culminated to this very moment.
I know this might seem silly, as if I am worshiping this basketball stadium where college athletes play a game. It’s more than a game though. It’s more than the tradition of excellence. It’s more than 14,644 fans all rising at once to give our team the energy to make defensive stop. It’s the beautiful culmination of all that is spectacular about the University of Arizona and all that the U of A means to me. When I am in that building I feel so incredibly proud to be a Wildcat for life, regardless of the outcome. McKale was and will always be my second home.
I hope when you come to campus you’re all able to find your second home as well. Whether that’s the turtle pond or even taking a snooze on the mall, there are so many special places on campus I have no doubt you’ll find your happy place.
And as always, Bear Down.