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FGCU men's basketball team cheered on before Texas flight to NCAA South Regional

Mar. 27, 2013
FGCU's Eric McKnight reaches out to fans as he make his way to the bus Wednesday. / Jack Hardman/


Get in-depth coverage as FGCU gets ready to take on Florida on Friday in the South Regional semifinals at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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With its Dunk City rap anthem blaring from nearby speakers, the FGCU men’s basketball team emerged from Alico Arena and started slapping hands with fans gathered behind a blue fence.

FGCU guard Brett Comer smiled at the crowd, grabbed teammate Bernard Thompson by the shoulders and pulled him in close. Thompson was signing an autograph.

“You are so famous, Bernard,” Comer whispered in Thompson’s ear. “Sooooo famous.”

They all are. The No. 15-seeded Eagles, who received headlines from ESPN, Sports Illustrated and CNN for their upsets of Georgetown and San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament, received a hero’s send off Wednesday for their Sweet 16 game. About 200 fans came out to cheer the players as they boarded their bus to the airport. FGCU will play No. 3 seed Florida on Friday in Dallas.

“It’s tremendous,” Eagles coach Andy Enfield said of the crowd. “When you see the children, parents and families, that’s what it’s all about. We’ve been trying to get the community involved for a year and a half.”

Now, he has Southwest Florida’s attention. Fort Myers native Julie Adams brought her two young sons and four of their friends to Wednesday’s send off. The kids, all younger than 12, shook hands with the players and picked up autographs on Sweet 16 newspaper section.

“They are all football players, but they’ve been playing a lot of basketball lately because of this team,” Adams said. “We have to be here to cheer them on. They are our hometown heroes.”

A University of Florida graduate, Adams said she plans on cheering for FGCU on Friday.

“I spend just four years at Florida and 34 years here in Fort Myers,” Adams said. “I‘m going for the Fort Myers team."

Indiana resident Kyle Wang, who is vacationing in Cape Coral this week, brought his teenage son so they could get a glimpse of a Cinderella basketball team that is captured the nation’s attention. He said his son shook the players’ hands before they practiced at Alico Arena.

“It’s pretty exciting. They came out of nowhere two weeks ago,” Wang said. “Being from Indiana, we love to see the small guys succeed. They remind us a lot of Butler in Indiana. Hopefully they can keep winning. Keep the dream alive.”

A fan yelled out to Enfield to “keep them running all the way to the Elite Eight.” Another fan yelled that she is supporting the Eagles “all the way from Wisconsin.”

Enfield said his club is ready.

“Our players have done a great job this year of focusing when they had to, but also enjoying the moment,” Enfield said. “We want to have fun while we’re doing it.”

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