AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns men’s basketball team hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 in 15 years, and while that’s a tremendous accomplishment the team is proud of, they certainly aren’t satisfied.
The second-seeded Longhorns take on third-seeded Xavier at 8:45 p.m. Friday at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City to see who moves on to Sunday’s Elite Eight, and what has held the team together this season has been their love for one another.
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Senior forward Timmy Allen, one of 16 players in college basketball since 1992 to score at least 2,000 points, grab 800 rebounds and notch 300 assists during a career, said “he’s soaking everything in.”
“I’m taking this to heart because I’m not getting this again,” he said Tuesday before the team left for Kansas City. “I’m mature enough to know how special this is. There was a moment after we beat K-State on the road and we walked out and said, ‘Yo, this is special.’ I’ve never felt this before.”
Allen said he was confident he’d be “two and done,” after his time at the University of Utah and be playing professionally. It wasn’t arrogance by any means, he just thought after playing a couple of years in the Pac-12, he’d be ready to move on. He realized that he wasn’t, put his name in the transfer portal and ended up in Austin before last season. He’s glad he is a Longhorn.
“I wasn’t ducking the journey or running from the work, I just thought I’d be that good,” Allen said. “Those days were not easy, they were very hard for me, but I’m blessed to be here.”
Senior guard Marcus Carr said the Longhorns are “one big family.”
“I think our bond really shines through and we all play for each other,” Carr said. “We’re always happy to each other succeed. From the top down, everything has been pretty amazing.”
The Big 12 Conference’s sixth man of the year, graduate transfer guard Jabari Rice, came from a tremendous mid-major program at New Mexico State and wanted his remaining year of eligibility to be part of something special.
“It was established in the summer, and when we went on a camping trip over the summer, we all talked about what happened in our lives and who we trusted,” Rice said. “We got to learn about each other, and after that, we just became a brotherhood.”
Rice called this season “a special journey,” with all that has happened, and to be accepted as the player he is and the role that he fills is something he’s going to remember forever.
“I’m blessed to be here,” Rice said. “They don’t ask me to be anybody that I’m not, they want me to be myself and they accept me for who I am. The players, the coaches, the managers … I’m appreciative and I couldn’t ask for anything else. I’m trying to get everything I can out of it and I’m trying to help bring a national championship to Austin for the first time.”