In the latest episode of the #HOLDAT podcast, former Duke Blue Devil Carlos Boozer and former Washington Husky Nate Robinson trade their favorite NCAA tournament stories and more.
Nate Robinson: Booz do the listeners and me a favor and give us a glimpse of what it was like for your first NCAA tournament. Do you remember your first game and who you guys played?
Carlos Boozer: Yea, taking me back. What an incredible experience to be a part of March Madness. Coming from Juneau, Alaska—a small town, I always had dreams of playing in it and we worked our butts off. We were loaded with obviously a great coach in Coach K and we had Shane Battier, who was probably our player of the year who had a great supporting cast with Mike Dunleavy and myself. But we thought we had the best player in college basketball with Jason Williams, who was our point guard and was our leading scorer. He was leading us in scoring with like 22 a game.
I will tell you my first wow moment of March Madness. So the first game we had like a cupcake game. We smacked someone by like 50 points. I can’t remember exactly who it was and we get to the sweet sixteen and we are playing our game in Syracuse at their huge arena and I don’t know if you ever been there Nate, it’s like a football stadium.
NR: Yea I’ve been there. UW played someone over there a couple years back when Rondo and a couple other guys flew out there and watched the game. It was an unbelievable stadium
CB: It’s like a football stadium—so they can seat like 40,000 people, maybe even more. So we get up there and we are playing Florida—they got Udonis Haslem, Teddy Dupay, Brett Nelson, Mike Miller, and the list goes on, they had a squad. We were the young gunners. I’m a freshman. 17 going on 18. Dunleavy is 18. Jay Will is 18.
NR: So you guys were regular freshmen not reclassified?
CB: No we were regular freshmen, not these reclassified freshmen, which is this new era (laughs). Stay tuned on the reclassification podcast. But we get there and there is a new level of excitement. There are cameras filming us from behind the scenes. I don’t know if HOLDAT listeners have been to Cameron Indoor Stadium but it is a small arena that fits just about 8,000-9,000 attendees to watch the game and they are all on top of you—don’t get me wrong—our house be rocking. But when we get to the Carrier Dome, it’s like 40,000-45,000 fans watching this game. So I’m going to be honest, I was nervous and a little shook.
I go to Shane and I’m like ‘Yo, look at all these people, cameras and media.' There was like a 1,000 media members from Australia, China and from all over the place and I never experienced that. I grew up in Juneau, Alaska. I have never experienced this level of attention over a basketball game. Thank God I had Shane who had March Madness experience. We had Coach K who had championship experience and so many years in the NCAA tournament. So Shane goes 'Yea Booz you made it, welcome.' So thank God we had that leadership.
We ended up losing to the Gators and they ended up losing to Michigan State in the final. That’s when they had Mateen Cleaves, a young Zach Randolph and they had Mo Pete. That was my first March Madness experience.
Losing my freshman year. That pain and agony, propelled us to win my sophomore year. We used that as fuel for our summer workouts, working out with the football team, weight room workouts, extra shots in the gym after practice, doing suicides and all the conditioning drills that we do. That defeat propelled us to win the championship over an Arizona team that was loaded with guys like Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, Luke Walton—they had a squad out there. I tell people all of the time, if you lose your freshmen year and you end up staying, some of the L’s you take early as a young freshman can help you succeed and win it the next year.
NR: My first experience was my sophomore season. We played UAB and I remember the team. I don’t usually remember scores that well but we had like 100 points and they scored 102. So we lost to UAB. They had some fast, down south, hungry young men playing against the Washington Huskies.
We were a team coming up. My freshman year, my quotation marks are up guys, we were the “doormats” of the Pac-10 at the time. Every team was kicking our butts, so we knew how to take a loss to the chin. So we kept getting up and fighting and we ended up making the tournament for the first time in a while since like probably 1998. For us, it was just fun to be there. It was a great atmosphere—going to practice, dunking in warm ups and cool shootarounds and we were just excited to be there. I ended up scoring 27 points in my first outing. So it was cool being that little guy and no one knew who I was and finding out who was Nate Robinson and the Washington Huskies
CB: They knew after that!