By Rixon Lane
Imagine a program.
A program that's been a relative unknown on the national stage since they first rolled the balls out onto the court in the seventies. A program that has had flashes of relevance, but no staying power. A program that needs a spark.
Imagine a coach.
A firecracker point guard who revolutionized the game in Charlottesville and cemented a legacy in Charlotte. A hard-nosed battler from Philadelphia. A leader who took an Atlantic 10 program called the Owls and had folks hooting in her hometown.
Imagine a hire.
A hire that is met with more than its fair share of raised eyebrows. A hire that has male coaches and male media members wonder why such a lofty salary is being handed to a coach who's never been to the Sweet Sixteen. A hire that draws a few snide remarks after an inaugural 10-win season.
Imagine a forward.
A player underwhelming in size and giant in heart. A homegrown product with doors opening to her across the country. A Goose Creek girl who takes a chance.
Imagine a rise.
A rise that starts slowly with a pair of wins at Purdue. A rise that features screams on Selection Sunday and sadness in the Sweet Sixteen. A rise that has everyone's attention, but appears to be plateauing.
Imagine a recruit.
A storybook character who single-handedly takes her high school to a state championship as a senior. A ballyhooed ballplayer who looks into the national cameras and says there's no place like home. A high schooler who steps into the spotlight well before she's settled into her dorm.
Imagine a goal.
A goal that is spoken in the first meeting of the first day. A goal that will catch the ear of the state and the country. A goal so lofty that few teams would dare mutter it under their breaths, much less proclaim it to the masses.
Imagine a season.
A run that kicks into high gear with a thrashing of an in-state rival. A journey that appears to skid to a halt in Storrs, only to find its way back on track. A campaign that concludes with conference title hardware and another top spot in the dance.
Imagine a state.
A state with the stars 'n' bars on the capital grounds whooping and cheering for 15 African-American women. A state that once held tight to slavery now the proud owners of the most raucous women's basketball arena in the country. A state that has tasted national success in football and baseball and now wants the basketball to bounce its way.
Imagine a weekend.
A span featuring three days and 80 heart-stopping minutes. A neutral gathering that turns into a house party. A laundry list of oh-my-God-did-you-see-that moments.
Imagine a guard.
A guard who dreamed of becoming her favorite player and wound up becoming her favorite player. A guard whose coach's professional jersey hangs in her bedroom. A guard who sends her team where its never gone before in the blink of an eye.
Imagine a freshman.
A talented youngster who realizes the big bad team across the court is playing the same game she's known her whole life. A teenager who takes over on the biggest stage and nets 18 points in 20 minutes. A 6'5" ball of potential who shines the brightest when the lights get the hottest.
Imagine a basket.
A basket that could have come at any point over two hours, but never did. A basket that means the difference between victory and defeat. A basket that goes empty as the final buzzer sounds.
Imagine the future.
A lightning flash from New York. A sculpted winner from Myrtle Beach. A towering terror from Irmo. A clutch killer from Charlotte. A long-range bombshell from the Bayou. A double dose of double-deuce from Heathwood Hall.
Imagine the birth of an elite basketball program...
...and realize that it's happening right in front of you.