Tournament Time

By Trey Alexander

One point.

That’s how close we were last March when San Diego State beat us in the Elite Eight at March Madness.

We lost by one measly point.

A loss like that, when we could’ve made history by being the first Creighton basketball team to make the Final Four, was going to sting for a while.

Our team was hurting.

It’s as if we had our hearts ripped out of our chests.

In that moment, it was difficult to reflect on the historic run we made to the Elite Eight because the loss was so painfully close and agonizing.

But it’s also a game, right? It’s not the first tough loss I’ve had, nor will it be the last.

This was different, though.

It stayed with me longer than any loss I’ve experienced before.

I couldn’t really put my finger on why it impacted me for as long as it did.

Then it hit me.

The Creighton basketball program is so much bigger than me. It wasn’t just the team and coaches that were devastated – the fanbase and Omaha community was, too.

That’s why when I was able to emotionally recover and dust myself off, I became hungrier than ever.

That loss lit a fire under me.

And coming back for another season just felt like the right thing to do.

There are very few times in life when you have the opportunity to do something that no one’s done before.

I came back to score ‘that extra basket,’ you know?

To give something back to the university and Omaha community that will be remembered forever.

Forming a brotherhood

Growing up in Oklahoma City, it meant everything in the world to me when my first two offers came from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Marcus Smart, Cade Cunningham, Blake Griffin, Buddy Hield, Trae Young, the list goes on and on. These guys are legends in my home state, and it was an honor at the thought of wearing the same collegiate jerseys as them.

But I took a different path.

I initially committed to Auburn, but after reevaluating my choices, I decided to decommit — and my journey led me here to Creighton.

I built great rapport here with Coach Miller and the rest of the coaching staff during that time.

I’d say there were certainly mixed emotions because you never really know what the program and campus are going to be like until you get there.

But I think what benefited me the most at Creighton and allowed me to find my footing was the chemistry I quickly developed with my teammates.

In particular, Arthur Kaluma and Ryan Nembhard were two guys I clicked with immediately.

We did everything together, both on and off the court, and they helped me out immensely in being integrated into campus and making me feel like I was truly a part of the community.

All of my teammates and coaches were welcoming, but I’ll always have love for Arthur and Ryan for being at the forefront in guiding me and establishing lifelong friendships beyond the hardwood.

Bigger than basketball

In addition to my teammates and coaches, another reason why my time at Creighton has been so meaningful is because of the connection I’ve made with the fans.

As a DI athlete in the Big East at a prominent basketball school like Creighton, it’s not lost on me how blessed I am to have the platform that I do.

It wasn’t that long ago when I was a kid in Oklahoma City idolizing some of those players I mentioned earlier, so to have the platform to sign autographs, talk with kids, and give back in any way that I can is a privilege that I don’t take lightly.

Speaking of which, there’s an interaction I have with one family in particular at every home game.

They never fail to put a smile on my face.

They have a young daughter who wears my jersey all the time, and she comes running up to me at the end of each game to give me the biggest hug in the world.

The funny thing is, this family thinks I’m making their day with these interactions, but it’s actually the opposite. They make my day because I have the opportunity to make an impact and share love and happiness with a little girl and family who embody what makes the Omaha community so unique and special.

Even if we lose or I don’t have my best game, any negative thoughts are put into perspective during those interactions because all I care about is showing that girl as much love as she shows me.

In addition to my teammates and coaches, another reason why my time at Creighton has been so meaningful is because of the connection I've made with the fans. As a DI athlete in the Big East at a prominent basketball school like Creighton, it's not lost on me how blessed I am to have the platform that I do.

Making history

Throughout the course of the season, even through the ups and downs that every team has, I’ve never lost faith in this team and this group of guys.

When I made the decision to come back this year, I knew we were bringing back a team that could do incredible things on the court, and there was no ceiling for our potential.

We showcased that recently when we upset #1 UConn in Omaha, becoming the first team in program history to beat a #1 ranked opponent.

As the reigning champs, and considered by many the favorites to win the championship again this season, UConn has rightfully earned their status as a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with in college basketball.

But that game also wasn’t a fluke.

While everything came together perfectly for us, that game showed the entire country what we are capable of.

We already knew it, and the rest of the country got to see why we were an Elite Eight team last season and how much damage we can do when we’re playing at our best.

It came at a perfect time, too, because with the conference tournament coming up in mid-March, we’ve got big plans when we head to Madison Square Garden.

Creighton’s never won the Big East men’s basketball tournament. We’ve been runners-up four times, and as recently as 2022 when I was on the team that lost to Villanova, so I know the team’s fired up to get over the hump and bring that trophy to Omaha.

We’re also not going to set our sights short, though.

There isn’t a player or coach in that locker that doesn’t think we have the team that can win a national title.

It’s tough to do, we all know that, but like I said, I’ve believed in this team all season long.

Beating UConn gave us an extra boost of confidence that we can beat anyone in the country – anytime, anywhere.

So, we can’t wait to prove that in March and giving this university, city, and community memories and moments that they’ll never forget.

To each one of my teammates, coaches, and fans that wear blue and white, let’s make history together!

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