Tar Heels mascot grieves after death of friend and predecessor Print
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Saturday, 05 April 2008 19:39
NCAAB Headline News


 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 at the Final Four. Several Tigers wrote his jersey number, 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 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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GLUMSVILLE: Lorenzo Mata-Real's eyes were rimmed with red. UCLA's only senior sat slumped in front of his locker, realizing his third straight trip to the Final Four had ended in defeat.
``The only thing we're going to remember is this loss,'' junior Josh Shipp said. ``Being our third time here, it's very disappointing.''
Coach Ben Howland had said going into the national semifinal against Memphis that this year's Bruins were his best bunch.
``There's a lot of sad kids in that locker room,'' he said.
Younger, seldom-used Bruins like freshman Chace Stanback, sophomore Nikola Dragovic and junior DeAndre Robinson stared into space while the media mobbed the starters in the hushed lockerroom.
Freshman Kevin Love brushed off questions on whether he'll leave school early for the NBA draft. Junior Darren Collison and sophomore Russell Westbrook could be gone, too.
``I haven't given any thought about if it's my last college game,'' Love said. ``Right now, I'm still a UCLA Bruin. I'll be in class Monday.''
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ROSE-Y OUTLOOK: Good news, Memphis fans. The Tigers heading to the finals means one more chance to watch Derrick Rose.
Count Penny Hardaway and Rod Strickland among those most excited about it.
The former NBA stars were in the Memphis locker room after the game - Hardaway as a fan, Strickland as part of the team's staff - and both raved about Rose's skills.
``He's a triple-double waiting to happen; he's that kind of player,'' Strickland said. ``He's a great rebounder, plays unselfish. He's a scorer, so he's got that Jason Kidd kind of thing going. Now, not many people see the floor like J-Kidd, but I think he's the kind of guy who can get close to a triple-double every night.''
Hardaway works out at the team's gym five days a week and calls himself a ``big brother'' to all the players. He can't help but admire Rose.
``He's really poised,'' Hardaway said. ``He does a great job.''
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RECORD RALLY: North Carolina cut its 28-point first-half deficit against Kansas to 58-53 with 9:20 left, but wound up losing 84-66.
The comeback would have been a Final Four record, six points better than Duke's rally in its 95-84 victory over Maryland in the 2001 semifinals.
The Blue Devils trailed 39-17 with 6:57 left in the first half. They halved the deficit and got within 49-38 at halftime. Jason Williams' 3-pointer with 6:52 to play capped the comeback and gave Duke its first lead of the game, 73-72.
Shane Battier had 25 points for Duke and Williams finished with 23.
``It's a 40-minute game and they beat us for 12 minutes,'' said Duke freshman Chris Duhon, who had 10 points and six assists. ``If you're going to beat us you've got to do it for 40.''
Arizona had the next chance to beat Duke in the title game but the Blue Devils won 82-72 for their third national championship.
The good news for North Carolina fans is that Maryland won its first national championship the next year.
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WHO'S THAT?: When Kansas ran into early foul trouble against North Carolina, reserve center Cole Aldrich played 17 minutes, matching his season high. He made the most of them.
The 6-foot-10 freshman scored eight points, had seven rebounds and blocked four shots.
``He was the best player on the floor for three or four minutes,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Aldrich also played solid defense against North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough. He scored 17 points with 9 rebounds, but had to work for them.
``When a few guys got into foul trouble, I just had to come in and just play some defense,'' Aldrich said.
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NBA TALK: North Carolina's season had just ended when the questions began about the futures of underclassmen Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson.
Hansbrough, who won several national player of the year awards this week, was in no mood to talk about entering the NBA draft instead of returning for his senior season.
``I'm not even thinking about that right now,'' said Hansbrough, his voice low and hushed in the locker room.
Ellington, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, and Lawson, a 5-11 sophomore, also said they hadn't thought about making the leap to the NBA. But Ellington did say he planned to talk about his options with his parents.
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AP Sports Writers Jaime Aron, Beth Harris and Andrew Bagnato contributed to this report.
 

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