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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A hometown advantage

    March 15, 2007 Arizonas Nic Wise relaxes before Arizonas practice round at the New Orleans Arena, Thursday, March 15, 2007 in New Orleans.
    Chris Coduto
    March 15, 2007 Arizona’s Nic Wise relaxes before Arizona’s practice round at the New Orleans Arena, Thursday, March 15, 2007 in New Orleans.

    NEW ORLEANS – Marcus Williams has never been to New Orleans. But the connection is deep.

    His father’s side of the family is from the city and felt the wrath of Katrina.

    It is appropriate that the kid who calls himself Big Smooth has roots from an area that’s legendary for its musical smoothness.

    “”I was excited,”” said Williams, who will have at least six family members including his mother watching from the stands in New Orleans Arena. “”(It’s a) good thing for people to come out and see this city especially because it’s had its ups and downs.””

    Williams hasn’t had a large amount of time to wander and explore, due to the obvious preparation for the game, but he has noticed the environment and the city’s attitude.

    “”The city takes a lot of pride in itself,”” he said.

    “”If someone is from New Orleans, they’ll let you know. It’s a good city, it’s old, I think it’s a great environment.””

    He’s not the only one to feel the relationship.

    Nic Wise, Jawann McClellan, and Fendi Onobun – all Houston natives – are within short distance of the site. Wise and Onboun both said they will have about six family members in attendance.

    McClellan said he was very excited when he first got to town and has “”a lot of family coming down,”” but he added he doesn’t need much motivation after not playing in last year’s tournament because of a season-ending wrist injury.

    “”I have to prove myself,”” he said. “”Like Mustafa last year, he played well close to home (in Philadelphia), and not everyone plays well when they come back home, so hopefully I will have a good tournament.””

    Wise, in his first NCAA Tournament, hasn’t changed a thing in his preparation for the game, partly because his parents travel to Tucson to watch him play on a regular basis.

    “”Sometimes you can get overhyped and overexcited so you gotta do what you’ve been doing all year, don’t change anything,”” he said.

    Jordan Hill’s dad, high school coach, and guardian will make the trip from Atlanta too.

    Hill will likely be in charge of guarding Purdue’s leading scorer Carl Landry, but the freshman is as excited as ever to play.

    “”These are really big days for us,”” he said. “”We just gotta come out here and just kill, I’m so ready to play tomorrow.””

    New Orleans is far from Chase Budinger’s Southern California home, but the freshman said he’s been watching the NCAA Tournament since sixth or seventh grade. Last year, he was in attendance at San Diego State to watch the first two rounds.

    “”This is when the big players come out on the national stage,”” he said. “”You wanna show your stuff and obviously I’m one of those players.””

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