SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Like most kids who play basketball, Donte Poole has dreamed about what it would be like to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. But he confesses his dream didn't include a ride on the shoulders of a teammate.
Poole, a 6-foot-3-inch sophomore guard from Mojave High School, was part of an endearing celebratory image after Murray State's stunning 66-65 victory over fourth-seeded Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA West Regional on Thursday, a win that advanced the 13th-seeded Racers (31-4) into today's second round against No. 5 Butler.
"I didn't plan that," he said of the impromptu ride he got from Ivan Aske after Danero Thomas' buzzer beater helped Murray State prevail. Although Poole wasn't part of the game-winning play, getting caught up in the excitement -- not to mention the arms of Aske -- was "the greatest moment of my basketball life."
Murray State is enjoying the best season in the program's 85-year history. But can the Racers keep it going today against fifth-seeded Butler, which made 13 3-pointers in ousting Texas El-Paso 77-59 in its first-round win?
"Absolutely," said Poole, who had two assists in five scoreless minutes Thursday and has averaged five points in 14 minutes off the bench this season. "We came here looking to go as far as we could. We weren't afraid. We know we have a good team."
Poole said he's comfortable with his reserve role.
"I try to contribute whenever Coach (Billy Kennedy) puts me in," he said. "I'm just glad to be part of this."
Poole wasn't supposed to attend Murray State. He was set to go to Colorado State after leading Mojave to the Class 4A state title game in 2007. But when the NCAA Clearinghouse told him he was a half-credit short of being eligible, he went to Sound Doctrine Christian Academy, a prep school in Georgia, and reopened his recruiting.
"I didn't want to go to a junior college," Poole said of his decision to go to prep school. "I thought this was the best way for me to play at a high level."
Kennedy watched Poole and liked what he saw. Poole visited Murray State, which is located in Kentucky and culturally is about as far from Las Vegas as it gets.
"It was a big adjustment, but I love it," Poole said. "I can focus on school and basketball. There's no distractions to deal with."
A broken collarbone cut short Poole's freshman season, limiting him to 16 games. But he fully recovered and, as a sophomore, became part of a team that not only won the Ohio Valley Conference but pulled off one of the biggest shockers of the opening round of this year's NCAA Tournament.
"I know like 80 percent of the people didn't have us winning," he said. "I know we busted a lot of people's brackets. But President Obama picked us. He believed in us. So I'm glad his bracket is still alive."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913.