BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WNCN) — Of all the teams at the Sweet 16 in Bridgeport, the one that appears to be having the most fun is N.C. State. And why not, this group knows this is their last hurrah.
The Wolfpack is led by four starting players whose careers will come to an end either on Monday or next weekend in the Final Four in Minneapolis. Three of those players are graduate students who just wanted one more chance to be a part of this team.
“I really love my teammates and I believe we’ve gotten closer more this year because of Ray (graduate student Raina Perez) because she was quiet last year so we’re getting more of her personality,” said graduate student Kayla Jones.
“And also I felt like we weren’t done — we had unfinished business. To just get over that hump (winning a Sweet 16 game) and see it happening now was worth the comeback,” Jones added.
Jones grew up in North Carolina as did fellow-graduate student Kai Crutchfield so the extra year on the court allowed them to stay home and stamp their legacy on the program.
“I felt like it was a no-brainer,” said a smiling Crutchfield. “Another year of education, one, and two, I just love these girls. I love the program, I love N.C. State and you know I was born and raised in Raleigh so I wasn’t ready to leave yet.”
The return of so many upperclassmen was a blessing for Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore, but it also seemed to raise the stress level with the increased expectations.
“Yeah, maybe a little bit of pressure — I probably felt more pressure this season than I have because I knew our expectations were so high,” admitted Moore. “I’m not talking about just inside but outside the building.
“So maybe I have felt more pressure but mainly it was just wanting them to benefit from the decision they made,” Moore added.
So what if Jones and Crutchfield had decided not to come back? What would they be doing instead of playing basketball?
“What would I be doing right now? I have my own business so maybe focusing on that a little bit,” said Crutchfield. “I’m not sure maybe ‘Corporate America,’ I don’t know.”
“I have no idea, I have no idea”, said Jones. “Hopefully basketball somewhere on the next level but yeah, I don’t know.”
It’s safe to say N.C. State fans are happy they decided to suit up with the Pack instead.