Sports journalism opportunity educates, amazes

Noah Orloff

When I originally heard the Final Four was coming to Minneapolis, I thought it would just be another event that was so close, yet so far; Super Bowl 52 being held in Minneapolis had no drastic impact on me. I soon found out that I was very far from the truth.

When the opportunity to attend Full Court Press, an annual student journalist event at the Final Four, came my way, I thought it would be a good idea to apply. That being said, I had very low expectations. I was under the impression that we would be able to watch a couple of events from a distance. As the event approached, I became more optimistic, especially after picking up my media pass the day before. The schedule was intriguing: we would listen to veteran journalists, attend team practices and press conferences, attend the Reese’s College All-Star game and watch two award presentations. Nevertheless, I was still skeptical because I was not sure how active attendees could be over the course of the whole day.

April 5 finally had arrived and I felt many different emotions. I was a bit nervous because it was my first media event of that magnitude, excited because of the potential and prepared for what was to come. I had spent the day before the event reviewing March Madness’ highlights in addition to my previous Final Four knowledge and writing up questions that I was still unsure whether or not I would be able to ask.

Walking up to U.S. Bank Stadium was daunting, but all the more inspiring. In the short amount of time that the venue had been in use, it had already made so many profound sports-related memories. Inside the football press box, journalists Dana O’Neil, Pat Borzi, Rachel Blount and Glen Crevier delivered a very educational panel discussion regarding sports journalism. I was able to pick the brains of many successful professionals and learned a lot in the process. They spoke about some of the ways they got to their current positions, constantly stressing the importance of connections. I also enjoyed hearing some of their amusing stories from being in sports journalism for multiple years.

Following the Q&A session, I was able to begin what was arguably even more useful: the experience of covering the Final Four. Auburn University was the first team to arrive, and they did not disappoint. I was able to interview multiple players in their locker room and also got to speak with coach Bruce Pearl. I felt as though I belonged while asking questions in a mob of reporters. I couldn’t believe I had been able to interview multiple key players of the Final Four, but the madness had merely just begun. I followed Auburn to the basketball court where I was able to capture a variety of photos during practice. It felt very interesting being on the media side of the basketball court while the public were only able to watch the open practice on the opposite side.

Next came the University of Virginia, which I decided to make the long pilgrimage to the breakout rooms for. The breakout rooms were smaller areas that provided a more personal press conference environment. I was able to speak with Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, who both were able to help bring Virginia a National Championship just a few days later. Virginia had an entertaining practice, but now Texas Tech University was in the building.

Texas Tech provided an exciting lineup that had confidence going into its match against Michigan State. The breakout rooms once again did not disappoint, providing me a way to talk with Jarrett Culver, Davide Moretti and Brandone Francis.

Michigan State was the team I was most excited to see, and they too did not disappoint. I was able to meet coach Tom Izzo, who was appearing in his eighth Final Four. I was able to see what the practice routine was for Michigan State players, watching their various drills.

The Reese’s NABC College All-Star Game was very entertaining, compiled of seniors across the nation. Unlike past all-star games I have watched, the match had a fair amount of competition. The University of Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy definitely was the crowd’s focus, receiving multiple applauses throughout the game.

One of the many highlights of the day came at the very end. The Oscar Robertson Award and Associated Press Award presentations had been rescheduled to later in the day, but I am very glad that I stayed to see it. Both awards are given to the player of the year recipient. Zion Williamson, the impressive freshman from Duke University, received both awards. I was able to ask Williamson a question, which was truly special given the high level he has played at. Seeing Hall of Famer Robertson in person also was very exciting.

Finally, attending this Full Court Press event made watching the games at home on television way more personal. I felt a connection to every team after seeing the passion their players and fans had. This made watching three of the four teams lose harder, but also allowed me to be super enthusiastic about Virginia winning.

With any opportunity like Full Court Press there is potential for failure, but in many instances the pros outweigh the cons, and for me it ended up being a memory I will hold on to forever.


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