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This week marks the beginning of what is called, “March Madness”. 68 teams from all over the country compete for the National Championship in Men and Women Basketball. In many cases it also offers many moments of empowerment for those who participate. There’s an intangible and competitive spirit that leads to one shining moment that will last a lifetime in the hearts and minds of everyone involved. However, there will be many shining moments shared by many before we arrive to that one moment that usually takes place at the Final Four.

For instance, the University of Kentucky (UK), Hampton University (HU), Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Southern Methodist University (SMU) shared moments during their conference tournaments that I am sure that they will not soon forget. Kentucky is the first Division 1 basketball team to go undefeated in the regular season and conference tournament, since the University of Indiana won it all with a 32-0 record in 1976.   When Kentucky defeated Arkansas in the SEC Conference Championship this past Sunday that was indeed a shining moment-34 and 0.

Hampton University enters the NCAA tournament thanks to the automatic bid they received when by defeating Delaware State University in the MEAC Tournament Championship game on Saturday afternoon. When the tournament started all you could hear in Norfolk Scope was how coach Ed Joyner of HU would not return as the coach next season. In fact, the team lost its final home game of the regular season to its biggest rival Norfolk State University. The team that they defeated in the semi-finals of the tournament was also Norfolk State University. No they didn’t win the majority of their games during the regular season but they were able to go on an incredible run and win four straight games in the tournament to be named Champions of the MEAC and there was their shining moment.

Virginia Commonwealth University lost its best player in Briante Weber to a devastating season ending injury this year. The team struggled to find its way the rest of the regular season, losing twice to its crosstown rival, the University of Richmond along the way. The team however, caught its groove in its conference and went on to win the Atlantic-10 Tournament Championship for the first time since joining the conference. Even though he was injured and unable to play, Weber was with the team every step of the way, and when they won the championship he was able to join in the celebration and helped them cut down the nets. Picture that one shining moment!

What legendary coach Larry Brown has done for the basketball program at Southern Methodist University is nothing short of incredible. Brown is a person who was the coach at Kansas University when they won the National Championship in 1988. Ironically, 1988 was the last time that SMU won a conference championship and a berth to the NCAA tournament. Brown also won a World Championship in the NBA while serving as head coach of the Detroit Pistons. He doesn’t have to coach another game but he choses to continue to coach and empower future generations of student athletes. As I watched the SMU Mustangs play in the American Athletic Conference tournament this week they were symbolic of the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers that went to the NBA Finals that year. Nobody expected the 76ers to win anything and neither was SMU. The Mustangs however, defeated all odds by winning the tournament. Their shining moment came in front of a crowd that cheered so loud for UCONN and against SMU that you couldn’t even hear yourself speak. SMU received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament that could end with a trip to the Final Four for yet another, “One Shining Moment”.

That shining moment can mean so many things to so many different people. It offers encouragement to student athletes from colleges and universities all over the United States. To continue to persevere through the many obstacles that we face and to focus on the success that could come as a result. Like in the lyrics of the Oscar winning song entitled, “Glory” that was written for the movie, “Selma. “It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy”. Truly believe and recognize that the most memorable results of March Madness are many times captured in “One Shining Moment”.