|by David Hood|
The name itself conjures images of great sporting events that have occurred since it was built in 1968 – NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, NCAA Tournaments, the Willis Reed injury game in game seven of the 1970 NBA Finals.
Elvis Presley performed under its roof, as did The Grateful Dead, Michael Jackson and Led Zeppelin.
One of its many nicknames is The Mecca, and the Clemson basketball team will make a pilgrimage to the sports mecca next week when they play in the NIT Final Four, something that junior forward K.J. McDaniels is looking forward to.
“It will be a memory, for sure. Something that I will remember for the rest of my life,” McDaniels told TigerNet following Tuesday’s home win over Belmont. “I am going to take the most photos on the entire team. It will be a great experience for us. I just want to step on the court. Maybe even get a picture of me dunking out there. I can’t wait to just get out there and check it all out. It will be a great experience.”
The Alabama native said that he will relish every moment, and it became a team goal following the win over Georgia St. in the first round of the NIT.
“It’s always been the place I’ve wanted to go and play,” he said. “To get the chance to go and do that is special. It’s The Mecca. One of the greatest places you can play basketball. I’ve always seen it on television, and I can’t believe I get to go up there and play in that type of environment.
“I believe that really became our goal after the first NIT game. That became my goal and our team goal. For us to go out there and grind the way we did, that was big, and it showed that we can go up there and win. I’ve never been to New York, and I am looking forward to it.”
Damarcus Harrison is one of the main reasons the Tigers gave the opportunity to play in the Garden – he scored 12 of Clemson’s final 15 points in the second half of the win over Belmont.
“It’s going to be phenomenal. I’ve always wanted to play in Madison Square Garden,” Harrison said. “Everybody says that, but it’s true. Big time players go in there and make big time plays. That is the place you want to play. They show up. It’s a wonderful opportunity to go into the Big Apple and play in a big game.”
However, the trip won’t be complete – at least in Harrison’s mind – unless the Tigers bring back two wins from the storied venue.
“I won’t be satisfied until we are in the championship game,” he said. “Once we get into the championship game, I want to win it. I am excited about going to New York for the first time and playing in the Garden, but I want to go up there and win a championship. “
David Hood can be reached at email@example.com