ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The ACU Wildcats men’s basketball team did not bring home the NCAA title this year, but they did make it further than any other Abilene team in history, so spirits on campus have not been dampened.
“I think it’s just built a winning mentality, not just for the players, but it’s recognized on campus, too, for the students,” said ACU senior and Optimist writer Owen Simpson.
On Wednesday, the boys rode in to a celebration just for them on a caravan of trucks to much applause. T-shirts, hats, and smiles met the crowd gathered at Siggie Pavilion Park on the ACU campus.
Players were each given a chance to address the crowd and head coach Joe Golding gave a speech to thank the fans for their unwavering support during the tournament season.
“I’m sure the rest of the year, rest of the semester they’re going to get so much love from all of us and they honestly deserve it,” says ACU senior Cole Palka.
When he wasn’t busy signing autographs, ACU junior and Wildcat number 32 Joseph Pleasant described just how much this experience bonded the team.
“Relationships we built are really close. These dudes are gonna be at my wedding. Like, this is something that will last far beyond our college years,” said Pleasant.
If you were lucky enough to catch their game against the University of Texas, you might recognize Pleasant as the man that shot the winning free throws in the last seconds of the game.
It was an experience he says doesn’t seem real to this day.
“During the moment I was just trying to calm myself down and not make the moment any bigger than it is. Just trying to realize, I had shot free throws for so long and so many times just in a gym by myself or with a coach, so it’s like, ‘What’s one more time?'” says Pleasant.
Men’s head coach Joe Golding even dropped in to give his thoughts on the future of the ACU men’s team.
“And now we’re asking the question, We’ve been twice in four years, is this the end? No man, it’s just the beginning,” Golding said.