As Florida Gulf Coast players danced around the court Sunday night celebrating becoming the first No. 15 seed ever to reach the Sweet 16, San Diego State star Jamaal Franklin made a point to seek out the Eagles' best player.
Franklin pulled FGCU senior Sherwood Brown aside, embraced him and delivered a classy but heartfelt message.
"He just told us that we did a great job and he was just saying to keep this thing going," Brown said. "We're doing something special, and he just wants us to keep it moving. Don't stop now."
Franklin's version of the conversation was similar. He said he encouraged Brown to keep being a leader, to embrace the opportunity of playing in the Sweet 16 and to make FGCU's ride last as long as possible.
"Those guys we played against right now are just like us," Franklin said. "They all love each other and they all play together. They just want to win. And you can see at the end of the game, a lot of teams win games and just leave the court, but they embraced it. They embraced it together."
Of all the San Diego State players, Franklin should be most familiar with how Florida Gulf Coast celebrated. Though he was disappointed his 20 points weren't enough to propel the Aztecs to the Sweet 16, Franklin remained on the court long after his teammates had gone to the locker room, soaking in the sight of the Eagles dancing and rejoicing at his team's expense.
Franklin, a notoriously hard worker during the offseason, puts in long hours each summer working to improve his jump shot and sharpen other facets of his game. Whether he does that work in preparation for the NBA draft or for his senior season at San Diego State, the image of Florida Gulf Coast rejoicing will surely be seared into his mind.
"When teams celebrate like that I always stay on the court and watch because at the end of the day that's motivation for me," Franklin said. "I'm always going to be in the gym working out, and stuff like that needs to be in my mind so I can motivate myself to get better and motivate my teammates. Stuff like that always stays with me, never goes away."