HOUSTON — Kentucky's Darius Miller, the former Mason County High School star, said Thursday he received congratulatory words this week from another ex-Mason standout, Chris Lofton.
"He texted me, congratulated me," Miller said. "He said not to be satisfied with just getting to the Final Four."
Lofton led Mason County to the 2003 Kentucky boys' high school state championship as a junior and was the commonwealth's Mr. Basketball in 2004. Spurned by in-state powers Kentucky and Louisville, he went on to a standout college career at Tennessee.
Miller powered Mason County to the 2008 state title and was Mr. Basketball the same year. He did get a scholarship offer to Kentucky.
"That's a guy I really looked up to growing up," Miller said of Lofton. "I spent a lot of time watching him work, watching him play. He still keeps in touch with me, too."
Shelvin Mack's mom, Victoria Guy, likes to tell a story about the first time she saw her son try to dunk a basketball.
Shelvin was 5 when he launched himself off a chair toward a 7-foot goal his uncle had mounted on the side of a deck.
As his mom tells the story, the dunk attempt went very wrong. Shelvin ended up hanging by his teeth in the net.
"It's true," the Butler University guard said Thursday with a smile. "I'd been watching too much Michael Jordan. I was going for a windmill (dunk). It didn't turn out well."
Mack, who will lead Butler against Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday, said he did not remember how he got his teeth free from the net.
His mom says the family had to disconnect the goal from the deck and take Shelvin to the UK hospital to get him loose (and a root canal). In leading Butler to back-to-back Final Four appearances, Mack has relied primarily on his jump shot.
"Now you know why I don't like to dunk," he said, smiling.
Final Four fund-raiser
Butler big man Matt Howard said his hometown of Connersville, Ind., had mounted a fund-raising campaign to help his family travel to Houston for the Final Four.
Howard was unsure of the details.
"My dad always hangs out at a local coffee shop," Howard said. "It started there. They raised quite a bit."
The player's father is a mail carrier.
According to the basketball blog The Dagger, Connersville mounted an effort to pay expenses for the Howard family, which includes the player's nine siblings.
Each player in the Final Four gets an allotment of four tickets.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay offered to fly the family to Houston and pay for tickets. After the NCAA nixed that idea, Irsay limited himself to contributing to the fund.
Butler did it
Butler became the first team from Indiana to advance to two straight Final Fours. That means basketball powers Indiana, Purdue and Notre Dame have not.
"It does mean a lot," center Matt Howard said of the achievement. "It speaks volumes of how hard it is to do something like that. It takes a special group of guys and coaches. I feel fortunate to be sitting here (at a Final Four news podium).
"I know it's not easy. You've got to feel fortunate. You have to have things go your way. Three of the four games (Butler has played in the tournament) we could have easily lost."
Leading by example
With VCU leading Kansas by 14 at halftime, Coach Shaka Smart spoke of hustle in the locker room. A ball rolled loose, and the coach dived on it.
"I was like, 'What are you doing?' " point guard Joey Rodriguez said. "We knew Kansas was going to make a run, and he just wanted to show us what it would take."
Rodriguez said he thought someone just dropped a ball. Brandon Burgess said he thought that Smart had someone roll the ball out there.
Addition by addition
Rodriguez nearly transferred back home to Rollins College after Anthony Grant left as coach. One of the people who talked him into going back to VCU was Florida star Chandler Parsons. Parsons knew Smart from when he was an assistant at Florida and told Rodriguez he would like the new coach.
Smart said that when Rodriguez was making up his mind, he would come to workouts but would sit to the side. Smart said some coaches would have kicked him out, but he knew that Rodriguez was "just trying to feel us out."
NCAA president recalls threats
NCAA President Mark Emmert acknowledged Thursday that he received threats from Kentucky fans after freshman Enes Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible in early January.
When asked whether he could describe the nature of the threats, Emmert said with a smile, "I can't really quote without have them bleeped out."
Emmert said he and the NCAA took the threats seriously.
"We received enough communication that it was sufficient cause for people who worry about that to add additional security," he said.
Emmert noted how passionate fans add something valuable to the college-sports experience.
"I certainly appreciate passionate fans," he said. "The last thing you want is fans that are not passionate about sports.
"But we have to be careful that they don't become the cause or the excuse for ... repugnant behavior. That's true everywhere."
Lexington's Jessie Clark Middle School is having UK Day/Jorts Day on Friday.
All students have been encouraged to wear a UK shirt and "Jorts" in honor of UK player Josh Harrellson, who picked up the nickname after wearing a pair of jean shorts.
"We have been pumping it up this week by showing pictures of Josh on the morning news," teacher Sara Chaffin wrote via email. "We are also reading a UK poem and showing highlights of the NCAA Tournament on the morning news on Friday."
Quoting Emily Dickinson
Surely VCU Coach Shaka Smart set a Final Four record by quoting 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson once.
When asked whether it was possible for VCU or Butler to win the national championship, the VCU coach said, "I hope it's possible or we might as well go back to Richmond."
As reporters chuckled, Smart added, "Emily Dickinson said 'dwell in possibility.' "