Search for new memories in Raleigh
March, 22, 2014
By C.L. Brown | ESPN.com
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin played "One Shining Moment" enough times when his team struggled during the season that junior forward Jarnell Stokes said the team should have the song memorized by now.
Martin showed the video montage that concludes every NCAA tournament after a debilitating loss to Texas A&M. He even played the Luther Vandross song without the visual clips so his players could just feel it.
Martin said he wanted the Volunteers to realize they could still salvage their season.
"To have a chance to do that right now -- I think at certain parts of the year we didn’t even think we’d get in the tournament, so it just makes it that much more fun," Stokes said.
The "moments" are part of what makes the NCAA tournament so special, and there are plenty of reasons the four teams vying to leave Raleigh with one more win on Sunday would savor it.
Memphis coach Josh Pastner can taste his first Sweet 16 berth. For Virginia, which has had a lot of "first since" moments this season, it would be its longest foray in the tournament since 1995. For Martin and the Vols, it’d be validation that his method is working.
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesTennessee coach Cuonzo Martin hopes to leave Raleigh with at least one more shining moment.
For No. 14 seed Mercer, though, it would mean Monty Brown gets another chance to build his tournament memories. The cruel irony of the Bears’ upset of No. 3 seed Duke on Friday is that Brown doesn’t remember much from it.
The 6-foot-11 reserve senior center played just four minutes before suffering a concussion in the first half against Duke. Brown had the ball and pump-faked, Duke’s Jabari Parker jumped and Parker's hip crashed into Brown’s head.
Senior guard Anthony White Jr., who was on the court standing in the corner when the play happened, initially didn’t think Brown was injured. When White encouraged him to shake it off, he knew something was wrong.
Senior guard Kevin Canevari, who will be Brown’s best man in his wedding this summer, went over and asked if he was all right.
"He was like, 'What’d you say?' and kind of looking very dazed," Canevari said. "It was a little bit scary at first. It’s definitely sad that it happened, but we’ll be praying for him."
Although Brown sat on the sideline for the remainder of the game with earplugs to block out the noise, senior Jakob Gollon said his teammate had trouble recalling the victory.
On Saturday, Brown couldn’t even attend the team’s practice and media sessions. He was at the hotel, likely sitting in a room with little light. His teammates couldn’t even talk to him much after the win because he was so sensitive to noise.
"Beyond his injury and not being able to play for us, as far as memories are concerned, that’s a pretty big deal," Gollon said. "Obviously, this is a pretty big experience that we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives. He may or may not be able to recall some of the things that happened during this time."
Brown wasn’t in the locker room when Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski made an impromptu visit to congratulate the team. He didn’t get to ride the team bus back to the hotel and hear his teammates' amusement over the #LordhaveMercer hashtag that was trending on Twitter.
Brown’s concussion meant what could arguably be the greatest single moment of his basketball career might be forever lost in the haze of his brain.
"This is what you live for. This is what you dream of as a kid," senior guard Bud Thomas said. "Especially playing Duke and Coach K. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and to go out and beat them and pretty much shock the world. We’re getting all this press and Monty is pretty much in the shadow."
Brown averaged only 9.5 minutes, 4.5 points and 2.4 rebounds per game this season. His numbers on the court can be replaced when the Bears play Tennessee on Sunday, but he is viewed like an elder on a team full of seniors.
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsMercer's Monty Brown wasn't able to celebrate Friday's win over Duke with his teammates. The Bears are hoping another win will give him the opportunity to rejoin them next week.
Mercer coach Bob Hoffman called Brown "one of the unsung heroes on our squad."
The Bears view Brown as an "old head" who offers up wisdom and encouragement. After all, as Langston Hall put it, he is getting married. Senior center Daniel Coursey said Brown is the one who "tells us not to do stuff and be all responsible."
"No matter what’s going on, his spirits are always high," White said. "He’s always telling you it’s all right, get to the next thing if something bad happens. If something good happens, he’s the first person to come out and congratulate you."
The Bears are hoping to celebrate one more upset and have one more chance to watch Canevari dance the "Nae Nae," because that would mean Brown could have one more chance to rejoin them on the floor next week and enjoy his own NCAA tournament experience.
"Of course, he can watch the video on ESPN, but it’s another thing to be able to experience that," White said. "And Kev’s dance -- he would have been right there, right behind him jumping up yelling a little bit."