Created: Mon, 24 Mar 2014 05:24:00 EST
Updated: Tue, 25 Mar 2014 09:05:22 EST
The scene outside of Hawkins Arena quickly went from quiet with a few fans to a mad house mirroring the excitement of an NCAA tournament game. Mercer students and local fans welcomed home the Bears basketball team as they pulled up to campus fresh off their run in the NCAA tournament. The Bears pulled off the signature upset in the tournament.
"My favorite part was watching them beat Duke," said Justin Baxley. Baxley is a freshman at Mercer.
He's one of the 150 Mercer Maniacs, a student cheering section that traveled to Florida to watch the Bears beat Florida Gulf Coast in the conference tournament. "Out-cheered 3500, that's incredible," said Baxley.
As the players and coaches got off the bus to a mob of cheering fans, they began to reflect on their historic run. "We didn't want it to end this way so right now it stings. Our collegiate careers are over," said senior guard Kevin Caneveri.
The team boasts seven seniors. They've played together the last four years and began their careers at Mercer the same time as assistant coach Doug Esleck.
"These guys are gonna' be successful in whatever they do because of the work ethic they've established here," said Esleck. Kevin Caneveri is one of those guys.
"Kevin Caneveri, our dancing fool, is excited about potentially coaching and being a GA (graduate assistant) somewhere," said Coach Esleck. Kevin's "nae-nae" celebratory dance moves have made him a household name during the NCAA tournament.
"Maybe coaching, maybe play overseas you know a lot of us are real up in the air right now and hopeful we'll figure it out in the next couple of weeks," said Caneveri.
The historic run is over for the players and for some of the students. Those who have been at Mercer four years say the fun-filled ride has helped define their collegiate careers.
"Football this year and their great start and now this with the basketball team, Mercer has grown so much, it's a special place," said senior Allison Harrison.