GLENDALE, Ariz. — Most of the players here began dreaming of playing in the Final Four at a very young age. For many it was likely their first foray into sports consciousness, watching the event on television as elementary school-aged kids.
But for a few, they came to the idea of the Final Four a bit later.
Chris Silva, a sophomore forward for South Carolina, grew up in Gabon, a tiny country on the west coast of central Africa. He said he had never even heard of the Final Four until he was a junior in high school.
“That’s when I started watching basketball on TV because my coach was on me about learning,” he said. “He told me I had to watch basketball to go to college and the NBA. So that was the first time I saw the game and the Final Four. I don’t remember who was playing but I know I was amazed by the competition, to see how many people were attending the games.”
In Poland, meanwhile, Gonzaga’s fifth-year senior Przemek Karnowski also was being exposed to the event a bit later than his American-born teammates. He was about 14 years old and recalls watching Florida win the title. He doesn’t remember if it was the first or second of their back-to-back runs, but he remembers the thrill of seeing college basketball’s biggest stage.
“There is a time difference in Poland so the games were on at 2 or 3 a.m.,” he said. “My parents told me to go to sleep but I tried to find some streams online to try to watch it and since then it’s been kind of my dream to play in the NCAA . . . I had the lights off in my room watching on my computer and I was hoping my parents were asleep.”
On Saturday night — Sunday morning in Poland — they won’t be. The game, Karnowski said, will be broadcast on Polish television for the first time ever. Opening a door, perhaps, for some other player to get his first glimpse of the Final Four and begin to dream about playing in it one day.