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Up Close with the Colonials

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Robert Morris basketball players Velton Jones, Coron Williams, Lucky Jones and Karvel Anderson sat down with PSR Editor Tony DeFazio to look back on the Colonials historic upset of Kentucky earlier this spring.

Has it sunk in yet?
Velton: I think it finally sunk in about two weeks after the game. It was just an unreal feeling that we actually got the win. I don't really think about it too much now.

Lucky: It has sunk it a lot. After awhile I started to realize how hard we worked and how much we deserved it, but it's just another step in our journey.

Karvel: It sunk in to me when I went home for Easter weekend. I went to two restaurants and I got to eat for free because I had my RMU jersey on. Everybody I ran into told me how they watched the game or said congratulations and everything, so yeah, it finally sunk in. I realized that we did something powerful for ourselves, for the program, for the school, for the town.

Does it mean something special to you?
Coron: Oh yeah, we'll remember this for the rest of our lives. Whenever we have reunions, that's going to be the first thing we talk about, beating Kentucky. At the time it was just unreal -- unthinkable I guess -- that we just did that. But it means a lot to us, but also to the school and program as well.

What did it mean that it happened right on this very floor, where you guys have spent so much time and so much blood, sweat and tears?
Velton: For me it was a good way to end my senior year, for it to be at home. It was a great feeling to have that type of team here and to be able to get the win, I feel like it was a great way to go out.

Coron: It was a great reward for the seniors, I'm happy for them because they put so many hours into here and the underclassman put so many hours in also. I love that we just did it in front of our home crowd and everybody was there to see it.

Did you ever think this place could pump and rock the way it was during that game?
Velton: No (laughs). Never thought it could get like that.

Lucky: Every single game we play, that's what we envision. Sometimes we're disappointed in the following, but that's what we envision and that's what we got for Kentucky. I remember coming out an an hour and a half before the game and seeing the whole arena sold it, and it was just like, "Wow." We had to get our mind right and get ready to play.

Karvel: It was the greatest place that I could have been at that time. It really pumped us up.

When the game ended and Kentucky missed that last 3-pointer, the long rebound came out to you, Velton, and you punched it into the air and turned to go celebrate. But it looked like your legs completely locked up - is that what happened?
Velton: Oh yeah. As soon as I jumped and hit the ball and came down, my legs just crampedRobert Morris and locked up, so when I came down it was like I just couldn't bend them. It was bad (laughs).

Karvel: Me too, him, Ant (Anthony Myers-Pate), all of us were cramping up. I remember at one point coach was looking down the bench like, "Do I have anybody to put in? because we were all cramping up. We didn't have any more left. We put it all on the court for the crowd and for ourselves and just gave it everything we had.

Coach Toole talked about playing to exhaustion, and I guess each and every one of you did exactly that.
Coron: That's what it takes and that's what he asks us to do every game. We just wanted it THAT bad and everybody started cramping up. I knew if we went to overtime, I was gonng cramp up immediately, so I'm glad it didn't go to OT!

Are there any specific points in that game that stands out to you still?
Velton: Mike (McFadden's) free throws at the end of the game, just hoping he could put 'em in. That's what stands out to me.

Coron: I was behind him just praying. Praying as hard as I could, "please go in, please go in." But I had so much confidence because I shoot free throws against him every day and he's improved so much that I had confidence... but I was still praying, "come on, PLEASE go in."

Karvel: Specific moment? (laughs and nods at Jones, who was ejected for a flagrant foul in the second half)

Lucky: (shakes his head) Yeah when I got ejected (laughs). I was watching from the locker room, and I kinda ran into the hallway when they shot that last 3-pointer and I was just thinking, "please don't make it," and then it probably took my 20 seconds to get from there to my teammates because it was so crazy. I was just enjoying that moment.

Karvel: When they stormed the court it was just amazing. You see it on those highlights on ESPN all the time and it was just great to be a part of it. That's probably what I remember the most.

Any point in the game where you thought, "Uh-oh, it's slipping away?"
Coron: I thought that we would have to play for all 40 minutes to beat them. Basketball is a game of runs and I knew that they would make their run in the end. They're a great team, and a great coached team, so I knew they would make a run. But I had so much confidence in my point guard, our bigs, everybody, that we would pull it out.

Lucky: They're a great team. A great young team with a lot of scorers and a lot of athleticism, and we knew that gpoing up 9-0 was not the end of the game. We had the crowd behind us but we knew they were going to make a run so we just had to stay focused. But I remember there was a play when Mike dove on the ball to keep us up at halftime, that was a great momentum boost.

Any moments when you thought, "OK this is our game now." Maybe when you caught (Kentucky center Willie) Cauley-Stein on the switch and fed Mike for the dunk?
Velton: Well as soon as that play happened I did think, "this is our game, we've got to win this game. There's no way we can lose it."
Robert Morris
Before the Kentucky game, you suffered a disappointing loss, on your own floor, in the NEC Tournament. What were those few days like, following the loss to Mount Saint Mary's and the Kentucky game?
Velton: It was tough. We were down, everybody was down, we expect to win the tournament. So it was disappointing.

Coron: Oh it was tough for everybody. You just can't stop thinking, "What more could I have done to help my team?" So when I saw we were playing Kentucky there was the answer - the greatest college program ever.

Lucky: When we found out we were playing them, everybody got all these different texts about the game, asking for tickets. And we knew in our minds we could play with them. We played another SEC team earlier, Arkansas, and we only lost to them by five. It was very close throughout the whole game, at Arkansas. We played Xavier and only lost to them by 2. So that says a lot about our program and it says we can play with anybody. Coming here, where we don't lose too many games, it was just an exciting time. We didn't want to be the team that Kentucky came and played a charity game against.

Karvel: We wanted to win so bad. We were ready.

Were you still in kind of a hangover, or on cloud-nine, for a few days after that game?
Velton: Oh yeah, for sure. Definitely. I'm not even gonna lie about that.

Coron: Like I said, that game didn't even really kick in with me until about the Providence game (RMU's next opponent in the NIT), that's when I really realized, "Man, we ust beat Kentucky."

It's not like you haven't won big games or played big-time teams before.
Coron: Yeah but once I heard that we were playing Kentucky -- here -- I was in shock. We done played some high-majors, Arkansas and Pitt, but it's Kentucky that just set everything off.

Velton: It's the greatest basketball program ever, so...

Lucky: I've played in front of some big crowds before in high school (Jones played at legendary New Jersey high school program St. Anthony's) but never anything like this.

Karvel: Doing it when there's a hundred people in the gym at a junior college is one thing, but doing in here in front of a sold-out arena on ESPN against the No. 1 team in the history of college basketball? It's definitely the highlight of my basketball career. So far.

Velton, what was it like being able to spend that moment with Russell (Johnson), who's from your hometown (Philadelphia) and who you've spend the last five years with as a teammate?
Velton: It was the perfect ending, for real. Me and Russell have been through so much together here. We came in together, we've been roommates every year since we've been here so it was a great feeling to go out and win that game with him.

What does this do for the guys that return next season? Does this change the standard for Robert Morris?
Coron: Yeah. It gives us so much confidence. Now when freshmen come in we can say, "Yo. You play like this, you play to our formula, the way we know how to play, and we can do this. We can do this day in and day out." So I think it brings a confidence and we can really get young players to understand how hard you have to play to win.

Karvel: It's the perfect way to start next season. This program is trying to become that great mid-major program like a Gonzaga or whatever, where we're going to compete with everybody night in and night out. So when freshmen come in they know we mean business. I like that.

Lucky: I wish the season started in August, as soon as we get back.

Was this win better than making the NCAA Tournament?
Velton: I think so, yeah. It was way better than going to the tournament.

Coron: It was way better than getting to the tournament... beating Kentucky did more for the university than going to the tournament.
Robert Morris
Did it close the book on the frustrating loss to Villanova a few years ago in the NCAA's?
Velton: Yes. Me personally, I think we're one of the top mid-major teams in the country. People don't notice that, but now that we beat Kentucky I think people will know that we're one of the top mid-majors in the country.

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