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Bulldogs Soak In March Madness

Gina Raimondo, the Governor of Rhode Island and a Yale Corporation member, gave an inspiring talk to the team.
Gina Raimondo, the Governor of Rhode Island and a Yale Corporation member, gave an inspiring talk to the team.

Hold Open Practice At Dunkin' Donuts Center, Answer Questions From Media

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Yale made the most of its final day of preparation for Thursday's first round NCAA Tournament game against Baylor. The Bulldogs hit the Dunkin' Donuts Center floor for an open practice in front of a number of fans, fulfilled some media obligations and soaked in the special atmosphere that is March Madness.

The best question of the day came from a Providence Journal reporter who asked Brandon Sherrod. "Would you rather perform at Carnegie Hall or play in the NCAA Tournament, like you're about to do this week?" 

Said Sherrod, who returned to the Bulldogs this season after taking a year off to sing with the Yale Whiffenpoofs, "I think I'll go with playing in the NCAA Tournament. It's been a long time coming for the school and something I've dreamed about since I was a pre-freshman coming into Yale, watching Selection Sunday, and seeing guys be a part of media day here has always been a dream of mine. It's nice to see those dreams coming true. Can't really beat this experience."

Sherrod later had the opportunity to perform the Charles Barkley impersonation that he unveiled at Sunday's Selection Show Watch Party for the CBS crew that will televise Thursday's game.

James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs, also made the media rounds, holding a short press conference and meeting with the folks from CBS and Westwood One radio that will air the game.

"We're really excited to be here," he said during his press conference. "First time for everybody in our program, and it's a chance of a lifetime."

Much of the talk focused on the matchup of two of the top rebounding teams in the nation. Baylor is 15th in the nation in offensive rebounding (13.73 per game), while the Bulldogs come in at No. 17 (13.54). Yale also has been among the national leaders in rebounding margin all season.

"One thing Coach has been talking about, just putting a body on guys, and we work on rebounding almost every day in practice," Sherrod said "We know whoever hits first usually wins the battle. Hopefully, we'll be able to do that on Thursday afternoon."

For senior Justin Sears, a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, the press conference was an opportunity to reflect a bit on his outstanding career.

"Coming into Yale, I was 6-8, 190 pounds soaking wet maybe," Sears said. "Right now I'm still 6'8", and I'm 225 pounds, so I've put on a lot of weight. But most importantly, I've matured a lot as a basketball player as well as a man."

The Bulldogs also expressed their joy getting to play in Providence, just a short hike up I-95 from New Haven.

"All the Yale faithful will be there," Sherrod said. "I've heard a lot of people have gotten tickets and it's been a hot ticket, too, so that'll be fun. Hopefully, we'll be able to play like it's a home game."

That would certainly send the Yale fans home happy. The Bulldogs were a perfect 12-0 in the friendly confines of Lee Amphitheater this year.

After their obligations at the Dunkin' Donuts Center were filled, Yale headed over to Brown's Pizzitola Center for a more formal practice.

And later, the team had the honor of meeting Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, a member of the Yale Corporation and a 1998 Yale Law School graduate. She told the team how excited she was when Yale was revealed on Selection Sunday and to go out and make history to become the first Yale team to win an NCAA Tournament game.

Report filed by Tim Bennett (timothy.bennett@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity