TUCSON, Ariz -- When the Aztecs walked into their locker room at the McKale Center for the first time, "oohs" ad "ahhs" filled the room.
"Man, this is amazing," Aztecs' senior Billy White said with a smile as he looked around. "Our locker room is nothing like this."
After winning a school-record 32 games, the Aztecs earned the #2 seed in the West Region. As the highest seed in the Tucson sub-regional, the Aztecs were given the locker room usually occupied by the University of Arizona men's basketball team.
To quote White further, "It is crazy."
The locker room features enough recliners for every player on the team; large, wooden lockers with the Wildcats' players pictures above each locker (including San Diego High School graduate Jamelle Horne who is a senior at Arizona); a giant neon "A" in the ceiling; and a massive glass trophy case featuring hardware won by the Wildcats' basketball program over the years, including the 1997 National Championship trophy.
"That's the one we really want," said freshman guard Jamaal Franklin as he pointed to the trophy. "They can keep everything else, we just want that. "
"Coming in here, you see the National Championship trophy and how the school has really worked hard for this," said Aztecs' sophomore guard Chase Tapley. "For us to come in here and see this, it gives us great motivation."
With a generous donation from alumni Cole and Jeannie Davis, as well as $250,000 from Arizona head basketball coach Sean Miller, the plush new locker room opened January 4th after a $1.5 million renovation.
It also features raised sinks for taller players, adjustable lights and large flat-screen TV's.
"I haven't seen anything like it," said Aztecs' team captain D.J. Gay. "Reminds me of an NBA locker room. I haven't felt this comfortable in a locker room before. I could definitely get used to this."
The Aztecs all say they like their locker room back at Viejas Arena, but maybe they could take something from the design of this room - like the school's logo built into the ceiling?
"That's clean, to have that big ol' 'A' up there," Tapley said. "Geez, they did a real, real good job to this locker room. That 'A' is live, very live."
"I asked Coach how come we don't have one," Gay said. "He said 'What do we need it for?' I said, 'It's a nice decoration.' He just walked away.'"
The Aztecs get to spend two more days in these comfortable accommodations after winning the first NCAA Tournament game in school history, 68-50 over Northern Colorado on Thursday. They play #7 seed Temple at 3:10 pm on Saturday, with the winner moving on to Anaheim for the West Region semifinal.
The Aztecs hope they get a chance to check out the locker room at the Honda Center next week.
Aztecs enjoy comforts of Arizona locker room
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