They are more than Timberwolves teammates. They are four players who are among the few who have won an NCAA title. A new champion will be crowned on Monday night in Glendale, Ariz., and these Wolves all know that moment well. Here are their stories:
Championship game: Duke 68, Wisconsin 63 on April 6, 2015, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Stat line: 37 minutes played, 23 points on 7-for-13 shooting (7-for-7 on free throws, too) with five rebounds and one assist.
About that night: The freshman from Apple Valley won the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player award after his three-pointer with 1:25 left put away Wisconsin after the Badgers had led by as many as nine points.“A night like that, that’s what you work for, dream about and envision, playing college basketball and winning that championship. I’ll never forget hitting that three and finding my older brother in the stands. That’s who I was looking at in that picture, and then cutting down the nets and hugging my mom, just because she has been there through it all, supporting me.”
Keepsakes: “I have the ring, a piece of the net, the hat. They gave us chairs from the bench with the Final Four logo on it, a bunch of different gifts, and I have the trophy I got [for Most Outstanding Player].”
Championship game: Louisville 82, Michigan 76 on April 8, 2013, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Stat line: 37 minutes played, eight points on 4-for-8 shooting with eight rebounds, six assists, three blocks and one steal.
About that night: The Cardinals made Rick Pitino the first coach to win NCAA titles at two different schools and did so by pulling away in the second half. It capped a week when Pitino was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame; a horse he owned qualified for the Kentucky Derby; and the Gophers hired son Richard as head coach. “That was a great experience, for sure. It’s pretty special because not a lot of guys win that, and it was really special because we did it as a team. The city will love you forever. Louisville is a college town and everybody was excited and expecting us to win the title that year because we went to the Final Four the year before. Honestly, I never would have thought about anything like that when I was growing up [in Senegal]. I played the whole tournament and still didn’t understand how big it was.”
Keepsakes: “I have the ring, the court, a piece of the court, and I have like half of the net with me.”
Championship game: Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT) on April 7, 2008, at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Stat line: 42 minutes played, 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting with six rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block.
About that night: Memphis led by nine points with 2:12 left, but Kansas fouled its way back into contention and Mario Chalmers’ three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left forced overtime. “I had torn my ACL the year before that, so to come back and help my team win a national championship — especially at Kansas, with me being from Kansas City — brought a tear to my eye. I was very proud to be a part of it and to do it with a lot of family and friends around for the home team. I remember we were down late in the game, but they kept missing free throws and we just kept chipping away. … Once it went to overtime, I knew we were going to win the game.”
Keepsakes: “I still have a piece of the net, I still have my ring, and I have my jersey from that night. We got a piece of the court, too.”
Championship game: See Brandon Rush above.
Stat line: Four minutes played.
About that night: The freshman from Bloomington played little in the title game, but he was needed after his team found foul trouble in the Final Four semifinal game against North Carolina. He responded with a crucial eight-point, seven-rebound, four-block performance in 16 minutes. “Winning that, it’s right up there near the top for me, right with playing in the [NBA] Finals and the state tournament in high school, getting married, getting drafted, coming back home. … I think about it quite a bit still because those are your guys. You may not have grown up with your teammates, but you grow so close to them winning something like that. I played with Brandon my freshman year, and almost 10 years later we’re back as teammates and we still talk about that night from time to time.”
Keepsakes: “I have my ring. I still have my shoes from the Final Four and a package of stuff they give you. I still have everything. It’s always fun to have those things to remember it by.”
Wolves’ week ahead
Monday: 6 p.m. vs. Portland (FSN)
Tuesday: 9:30 p.m. at Golden State (FSN Plus, ESPN)
Thursday: 9:30 p.m. at Portland (TNT)
Friday: 8 p.m. at Utah (FSN Plus)
Player to watch: CJ McCollum, Blazers
Last month’s game postponement means the Wolves get two looks in three days at the gifted scorer. McCollum put up 43 and 32 points in his past two games vs. the Wolves.
“I am Big foot.”
Karl-Anthony Towns when asked if he believes in the big, hairy creature upon which Towns’ advertising campaign for Jack Links beef jerky is built.
Twitter: @JerryZgoda, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Blog: startribune.com/wolves