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His team, by George

Mason basketball veteran proud of his legacy

Mason basketball veteran proud of his legacy

March 31, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

HAGERSTOWN

Avery Carey last played basketball at George Mason University in 1999.

But the Hagerstown resident feels very much a part of the Patriots' miraculous run to this weekend's Final Four in Indianapolis.

Carey, 29, is feeling a sense of pride about his school's march through the first four rounds of the men's NCAA Tournament. He's been showing it this week by wearing the green and gold school colors.

"I feel like I'm a founding father," Carey said. "This is just great for the university ... to get to the Final Four in its fourth appearance in the tournament. They are making history every day."

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Carey, a North Hagerstown High School graduate who played at Hagerstown Community College, was a member of the George Mason team from 1997 to 1999. He averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds per game as a senior, when the Patriots made their second trip to the NCAA Tournament.

George Mason lost 72-48 to Cincinnati in the first round in Boston.

"After that game, they started to be able to recruit some of the guys that we got now in the program," Carey said. "Players started to go to George Mason, and they are the guys who are in the Final Four now. We set the foundation for the future."

The Patriots were 0-3 in tournament games before this season.

George Mason is known as a commuter school in Fairfax, Va., where the athletic programs haven't been a top priority for the student body until now.

"A lot of friends keep calling me and saying, 'Your boys are doin' it,'" Carey said. "They keep telling me that I got to get down there because it is like a big party.

"I was watching at home, wearing my green and gold," he said, recalling the Patriots' overtime win over top-seeded Connecticut to win the Washington, D.C., region. "When the buzzer went off, it was like all I could say was, 'Aw, man, they made it to the Final Four.'"

Even though he was a little biased, Carey said he could see a shot at the Final Four coming as the tournament unfolded.

"After seeing that game was going to overtime, no one thought they could beat Connecticut," Carey said. "But when I saw the way they played against Michigan State (in the first round), they had a hunger about them. They knew they had nothing to lose and wanted to go out and play their hardest."

In the process of reaching the Final Four, the Patriots defeated the last two national champions (North Carolina and Connecticut) and half of last year's Final Four (North Carolina and Michigan State).

"For me, it would have been great to be in the same position as GMU is now. But, us guys from before, we get the feeling that we helped change everything for the university," Carey said. "It is getting a reputation. It's real big for the university.

"Now, the whole area is talking about them. Now, it will get more press and media coverage. It's all happening close to home, and that's big to me."

The Patriots are decided underdogs this weekend because of their inexperience on a stage this big. George Mason faces Florida - appearing in its third Final Four - at 6:05 p.m. Saturday.

"Being a graduate of George Mason, it is a weird feeling to be part of it," Carey said. "We still get letters from the basketball program to come back. I'll be wearing my green and gold all week. All of this is bigger than life now. After going there, this is definitely a blessing."

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