It wasn’t until his early teens that Wichita State forward Darius Carter started keeping a keen eye on the NCAA Tournament.
“I was always an NBA fan before that,” Carter said. “But I loved Ohio State.”
And as a Buckeye fan, he quickly became accustomed to heartache no different than what Ohio State fans were feeling Thursday when they were stunned by a loss to Dayton in the second round.
“The thing that comes to mind first is the year that Florida beat Ohio State in the national championship game, first in football and then in basketball,” Carter said, referring to 2007. “That’s the first memory (of the NCAA Tournament) that pops in my head. It was always disappointment when Ohio State got to the tournament.”
Now he gets to start making some memories – hopefully better – of his own.
Carter, a 6-foot-7 forward, and senior Kadeem Coleby, both in their first year playing for the Shockers and both major pieces in the WSU rotation, will take the court in their first NCAA Tournament game on Friday as No. 2 WSU (34-0) takes on Cal Poly (14-19) in the second round.
Coleby’s biggest NCAA Tournament memory is also his freshest – and a huge source of motivation for the 6-foot-9 forward who transferred from Louisiana-Lafayette and sat out last season at WSU as the Shockers made their first Final Four since 1965.
Coleby leads the Shockers with 41 blocks and has started 17 of 34 games, including all three wins at the MVC Tournament.
“Definitely, seeing them do tremendous things made me want to keep working hard and want to be part of something special,” Coleby said. “Being here doesn’t feel too different because we’ve had cameras in our faces all season. I hope the fans are like they’ve been all year, too.”
Carter, who was named to the MVC All-Newcomer team, has been through the rigors of a postseason on the NJCAA level, helping lead Vincennes (Ind.) University to a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA Tournament in Hutchinson last season.
And even though Carter played 37 games last season, he was quick to point out that there are some big differences in what a Division I schedule will do to your body — a point accentuated by a hard foam roller he held in his hands during an interview, moving it back and forth along the top of his quadriceps and hamstrings.
“Because of the level, because the guys are bigger and stronger and more physical than last year, it’s different,” Carter said. “But last year, I was also playing almost the whole game. Now I’m getting a lot more rest and doing more to take care of my body, so I think I’m holding up just fine. I didn’t really know what to expect from (the NCAA Tournament), but it’s been great so far.
“I’m more looking forward to what’s ahead for us at this point.”
None of the other Shockers seemed concerned that their NCAA newbie teammates will get nerves on the big stage.
“They’re not going to be intimidated by any situation we get in,” junior guard Tekele Cotton said. “They’re all ready for the moment.”