Just a few short hours ago, the United States won the gold medal with an 85-70 victory over Ukraine for at the 2005 World University Games held in Turkey. While it is early here stateside on Sunday, it is already the evening in Izrik, with the players from Team USA headed out for a well-deserved celebration.
Stanford has two representatives on the golden USA squad: senior forward/center Matt Haryasz and fifth-year senior point guard Chris Hernandez. We had a chance to grab Haryasz quickly after the gold medal game, before he and Hernandez toasted the town. It is an emotional and exhilarating moment for the Page (Ariz.) product.
"It's amazing, Mike. I'm telling you," Haryasz shares of his gold medal moment. "My legs were weak. I had goose bumps. It was special."
Haryasz and the other members of the WUG squad were shocked last week, as they were just underway in Turkey, to learn of the loss by Team USA to Canada before reaching the medal round at the U21 World Championship in Argentina. That added to the already mounting pressure for Haryasz and his teammates.
"Shock," said Haryasz then to The Bootleg of his reaction to the U21 National Team's loss in the quarterfinals. "We're going to get preached to today about that. And we better win the damn gold medal.
World domination is a thing of the past for USA Basketball, as it has experienced unprecedented losses in the last few years. The rest of the world is catching up to the United States in the sport of basketball - at every level of competition. Given additional constraints upon USA Basketball, including the departure of many of its best talents from the amateur to pro ranks at increasingly early ages, no tournament is a "sure thing" any longer. This makes today's win all the sweeter for Team USA in Turkey.
"It was so cool, man," Haryasz exclaims. "This was the first USA Men's Basketball gold in a while."
The 85-70 victory was a decisive one for the U.S. over Ukraine, holding leads of 20 points through most of the fourth quarter. Haryasz says there was no immediate emotional release at the final buzzer; it was clear for some time prior that the Americans would be golden. But that did not temper the celebration when the clock hit 0:00.
"It was crazy out there. There were a bunch of people on the court," Haryasz describes.
"I told Chris something along the lines of, 'We got a gold medal bleep bleep,'" the emotional big man laughs. "We hugged and laughed. It was tight."
When we spoke with him, Haryasz had yet to take the gold medal off. He was about to hit the showers and would have to part with his momentous medallion briefly. But he planned on wearing it as much as possible in the coming days.
"This medal is getting heavy around my neck," he sheepishly admits. "But I'm going to wear it all the way home."
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