Day One at the 2015 Final Four: Let's Meet the Players!

2015 final four day one

On Friday I had the opportunity to interview a few members of the teams that have earned a spot in the NCAA Final Four: Michigan State, Duke, Wisconsin and Kentucky. I was feeling nervous and intimidated by the dozens of sports reporters peppering players with questions about the upcoming games. 

I was the only 13 year-old reporter, and I was unsure of how the players would react to me and respond to my questions about their favorite things. I wanted to learn some things about the players that no other reporter would ask!

First, I nervously went into the Michigan State locker room and saw each player sitting in front of his locker with his name above it. 

For my first question, I asked the players what their favorite holiday was. Four out of the six players I interviewed enjoyed Christmas the most out of all the holidays. They liked getting together with their families because everyone is happy. Alvin Ellis III loves Thanksgiving because of the great people and food. 

Ellis and Colby Wollenman said their favorite season is spring. Could it be because spring and March Madness go hand in hand? 

Kenny Goins loves the color green because it is his team color, while Keenan Wetzel loves the color orange.

I asked questions of several of Duke’s players as well. When asked which superpower they would love to have most, Marshall Plumlee, Sean Kelly, and Grayson Allen said they wished they could fly. 

Kenny King, academic advisor for the Blue Devils, wants to have the ability to be invisible, and when asked about his favorite movie, he said without hesitation: Hoosiers. Player Nick Pagliuca loves the movie The Shawshank Redemption

When the conversation shifted to food, I learned that Amile Jefferson and Sean Kelly consider their favorite pizza topping to be pepperoni. Never ask Marshall Plumlee to eat zucchini, though, because that is his least favorite vegetable. 

kid reporter matt collins kentucky duke final four
Kid Reporter Matt Collins with Duke's Amile Jefferson and Kentucky reserve guard Sam Malone

Meanwhile, in the Wisconsin locker room, I wanted to find out more about the true importance of cheese, given all of the cheeseheads in the state. Jordan Smith brought up Gouda cheese as his favorite, while Ethan Happ and Riley Dearring both love pepper jack cheese. The spicy flavor does it for them. Once a cheesehead, always a cheesehead

Zak Showalter loves good old American cheese and considers raspberries to be his favorite fruit. 

As far as dream vacations go, Jordan Hill would love to jump on a plane and head to Italy. He loves to listen to music when not playing basketball, so it seems like he will have something to do on the long flight! 

My conversation with the guys in the Kentucky locker room brought a lot of surprises. All of them played numerous sports growing up. Sam Malone and Todd Lanter both played baseball and football in high school. 

When I asked if they would like to play in the NBA, every player gave me the same answer: yes, it has been a dream for them since they were very young. They also said they would have other careers if they could not make it to the NBA. I was curious to know if any of them played an instrument. Dominique Hawkins played drums in sixth grade, and Malone hopes to learn to play the harmonica someday. 

At the end of the day, I was relieved that the interviews went so well. After learning some fun and interesting facts about the tournament players, I’ll look forward to watching them compete tonight.  Although they are in the spotlight for their achievements on the court, they are interesting people off the court as well. Each player is just a normal person who has an extraordinary talent for playing basketball.

Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images (court), Matt Collins (players)

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