SAN ANTONIO (AP) -Tyler Treadaway still thinks about friend Jason Ray every time he puts on North Carolina's mascot costume.
Ray died last March after he was struck by a car from behind while walking on a highway shoulder near his New Jersey hotel after going to a nearby convenience store. The senior, who had performed as the ram mascot for three seasons, was there for the NCAA tournament games against Southern California and Georgetown in the East Regional.
Treadaway shared some of those duties last year and has performed as Rameses during the Tar Heels' four NCAA victories that brought them to the Final Four this weekend.
``They're heavy and strong,'' Treadaway said of his emotions. ``There's a lot of emotions kind of building right now. The good thing is they're keeping us very busy, so it keeps your mind off of things. But he's definitely been in my thoughts.''
The university has honored Ray by creating a memorial spirit award for the band member, cheerleader, dance team member or mascot who best honors Ray's ``legacy of enthusiastic representation'' of the school. Emmitt and Charlotte Ray, Jason's parents, presented the inaugural award to junior cheerleader Jeremy Crouthamel during halftime of the Tar Heels' win against Florida State on March 4.
Treadaway, 21, is a junior history major from Mount Pleasant, N.C., He has shared the mascot duties with fellow junior Brad Lockwood this year, with the two often splitting up halves at basketball games or splitting up the work during football games.
``Every time we put that (ram) suit and head on, we're thinking about Jason,'' Treadaway said. ``It's not necessarily a sadness, but we're always thinking about him. And there's a heightened sense of feeling when it comes to times like this.''
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REMEMBERING 'DRE: The Memphis Tigers found a way to keep thoughts of suspended point guard Andre Allen with them to the Final Four.
Several Tigers kept his memory going by writing his jersey No. 15, on their shoes. Messages to 'Dre were scrawled on their sneakers, too.
Players said they talked to Allen about his misdeed and they've forgiven him. Coach John Calipari has said Allen's absence could turn out to be good motivation. They're not likely to miss him on the court as his contribution was pretty minimal, especially in games of this magnitude. Allen was third-string, behind Derrick Rose and last year's starter Willie Kemp.
``It doesn't affect our program,'' said shooting guard Antonio Anderson, who also can fill in at point guard if needed. ``The situation with Andre, coach handled that very well. We don't know anything about that. We're all just focused on this weekend. We feel bad for Andre that he isn't here with us. But we got to move on and play the ballgame.''
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AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron contributed to this report.

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