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Men’s Basketball: Ragin’ Cajuns off to San Antonio – video of departure included

Megan Wyatt, Daily Advertiser, March 19, 2014

Click here for video of departure.

Kaelyn Wyatt hands a flower to UL basketball player Elfrid Payton as he and the basketball team board a bus at the Leon Moncla Indoor Practice Facility in Lafayette before their flight to San Antonio, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. The team earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament and will face Creighton University in San Antonio on Friday. Paul Kieu, The Advertiser

How are you planning on watching the game Friday? Tell us at theadvertiser.com.

Don’t miss The Daily Advertiser-Walk-On’s viewing party as the UL Ragin’ Cajuns take on the Creighton Blue Jays in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 2 p.m. Friday at Walk-On’s Bistreaux and Bar.

QUESTION OF THE DAY — A few loyal Ragin’ Cajuns fans gathered Wednesday evening to send the University of Louisiana at Lafayette men’s basketball team to San Antonio for the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

The most energetic of the fans, Kaelyn Wyatt, 7, bounced from player to player during the send off, offering hugs, high-fives and tiny flowers she had plucked from the ground minutes earlier.

“I like the Cajuns, and they do really good,” Kaelyn said.

Her mother, Shannell Wyatt, has been a Ragin’ Cajuns fan for as long as she can remember.

“It’s the home team,” Wyatt said.

Although she has been a huge football fan since childhood, Wyatt began supporting other UL athletics teams when she became at student at the university.

“I felt the need to support other teams because the players are my fellow students,” she said. “I just felt like it was my way of giving back to the students I share a classroom with.”

Wyatt, who is a senior studying behavioral sciences, said she would travel to San Antonio for the game if her children didn’t have school Friday. Instead, the family plans to watch the game at home after school.

Others who showed up Wednesday to send the team off also described themselves as lifelong fans of the Ragin’ Cajuns.

“I used to sneak into the coliseum to watch UL basketball back in the days when it was sold out,” said Vance Lanier. “I’ve been following Ragin’ Cajuns basketball for a long time.”

Lanier plans to watch the Cajuns game Friday from his camp in Pecan Island. He is proud of the team and head coach Bob Marlin, he said.

“It’s just special. It’s a special time for the kids, for the university and for the town,” Lanier said.

Fan Greg Bourque’s reasoning for being a Ragin’ Cajuns basketball fan is straightforward and simple.

“I’m born and raised Ragin’ Cajun. That’s why. And I’ll die a Ragin’ Cajun,” Bourque said.

His message to the basketball team: “Never give up, baby. You got it.”

His message to Acadiana: “Why aren’t you here?”

Fewer than a dozen fans cheered the team on as they loaded the bus for San Antonio at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Eric Maron, assistant director of athletics marketing and promotions for UL Athletics, said the event wasn’t promoted as much as the Sunday welcome home gathering, which drew about 100 fans.

“People are really looking forward to the game, and that’s where their attention is,” Maron said. “We look forward to them returning afterward.”

Friday will be the first time the Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team has played in the NCAA Tournament since 2005.

Whether the team wins or loses the big game, Maron expects the Ragin’ Cajun Nation to welcome the players home with spirit.

“Our people like to support the team no matter what,” Maron said.

Although Wyatt expressed disappointment that there weren’t more fans supporting the team for the send off, she said she expected the low turnout was due to lack of publicity.

“Even if I was the only one here, I would still be glad,” Wyatt said. “It’s the little things like this that make a difference to the players, just knowing that people care enough to take time out of their schedules on a weeknight when there’s homework to do and dinner to get on the table just to watch them get on a bus — it makes a difference.”