UConn players cherish sharing NCAA tourney joy ride with their families

Mar. 31—HOUSTON — During the quiet moments of UConn's magical March Madness run, Nahiem Alleyne's thoughts turn to his parents.

Daryl and Michelle Alleyne sacrificed a great deal for Nahiem to reach this point in his basketball career.

His father spent late nights in the gym with him back home in Buford, Georgia. His mother provided academic support and advice.

"I think about them every day,'" Alleyne said from inside UConn's locker room in NRG Stadium on Thursday, two days before UConn faces Miami in the national semifinals. "They call me after games saying how proud they are of me. It's just a surreal feeling.

"Getting to this point, I know my dad, he used to play ball himself so I already know I'm living out his dream a little bit. They're going to be here this week and I'm just going to try to put on a show for them and just win it all."

His teammates echo the same sentiments about their parents' impact.

A trip to the Final Four is a reward for not just the players but the families, too.

"We talked about that in Vegas," said coach Dan Hurley, referring to the site of UConn's Sweet 16 and Elite Eight wins. "Not just it was the players, the families sacrificed so much to get us all here. Our wives, our parents, our grandmothers."

Hurley comes from a well-known basketball family. His father, Bob Sr., is a former legendary New Jersey high school coach and Hall of Famer. His brother, Bobby, coaches at Arizona State and won two national championships while playing at Duke. Dan's son, Andrew, is a UConn walk-on.

The extended Hurley family has been there every step of the journey for the UConn coach.

"I'm just really happy that they'll enjoy this — my wife, Andrea and my sons, Danny and Andrew," Hurley said after beating Gonzaga Saturday in the Elite Eight. "And my dad is the patriarch of our whole basketball family. My dad is one of the greatest coaches of his generation. ... This all started with my dad. We're just blessed that we grew up in Jersey City and found basketball and had a dad that pushed us.

"And I'm just proud he's been able to travel with us and now I get to take my dad to a Final Four."

Graduate guard Joey Calcaterra, who's from Novato, California, appreciates that his father, Rich, has attended nearly every UConn basketball game this season despite the long distance.

His father, mother Wendy and two older brothers, Nick and Frank, all have played a significant part in Calcaterra's life. Growing up, his parents drove him all over the West Coast to play basketball and give him the exposure and experience needed to take him to the next level. His brothers toughened him up playing pickup ball.

So Joey's thrilled he can bring them along on this joy ride.

"This is something really special for them as well,"" Calcaterra said. "It's high-level basketball and we're a basketball family, so it's what we love to do and what we love to watch. It's just truly been a special experience for all of us."

Several Huskies jogged over to the UConn fans sitting behind the team bench after the Final Four clinching win over Gonzaga Saturday.

Freshman Donovan Clingan, whose family is close by in Bristol, found his personal fan club. His father, Bill, is a regular at UConn games.

"I felt like I had to go over there and thank him and my grandma and my family for being there," Clingan said. "Just thank them for everything they've done for me to get to this point. Without them, I wouldn't be here. They're so supportive of me. I just want to show them I'm thankful for that."

When assistant Luke Murray took his turn during the net-cutting ceremony on Saturday, he climbed the ladder with his two young sons, Cash and Luke Jr.

"They mean everything to me," Murray said. "That was the most special moment of my professional career and I just wanted to share it with them. It's a picture that hopefully we will have in our house for a long time. They both love basketball. Hopefully, all this inspires them."

There's a chance for players and their families to share more magical moments in Houston.

UConn plays Miami in the national semifinal game at 8:49 p.m. Saturday at NRG Stadium.

Daryl and Michelle Allenye will be in the stands. So will Nahiem's younger brother Omari.

"It will be exciting and emotional," Michelle said. "For me, I'll always have butterflies watching him play because I always want him to do well."

This season has been an adjustment for the Alleynes, who went to nearly every game during Nahiem's Virginia Tech days but distance from home prevented them from attending many UConn games.

They watched the Elite Eight win back home in Georgia and celebrated the accomplishment.

"I told my husband the other night, once they made it to the Final Four, it was a reward for him as well," Michelle said. "We took him here and there. We were always present. Behind the scenes that nobody ever really sees, I remember at midnight they were up in the gym coming back at two o'clock in the morning and he had to get up for school.

"He was always dedicated. This is also a win for my husband."

Daryl added: "Mom, too, because she kept the academic side up. We attacked as a team thing and it's worked out for us. It's a blessing to see. It's a dream come true. He was such a good kid and worked so hard."