Marketing and Communication // 03.13.2017
Brett Larrick’s first memory of Charleston Southern University is the day he signed a letter of intent to play basketball. It was eventful, to say the least.
Larrick, his father, and CSU recruiters talked around the front of a car at a local gas station. Minutes later, Larrick was signing on “the dotted line” on the hood of the car.
His last memory as a Buccaneer came four years later, in March 1997, on a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to represent CSU in the first round of the NCAA tournament against the UCLA Bruins.
“We played at UNLV, Clemson and South Carolina but to play in the NCAA tournament, a game of that magnitude ...” said Larrick, pausing, “... to this day, I can still say that I’d never experienced anything like that.”
In March 1997 the Bucs captured the Big South title, earning the team an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Literally overnight the Charleston Southern men’s basketball program elevated from Big South champions to being listed alongside storied athletics programs like Kentucky, Duke, Indiana, Michigan, UCLA and North Carolina.
“Watching SportsCenter that week, seeing all those teams, and you’re one of them was exciting,” said Larrick. “Everywhere we went people were asking us about the game, where we thought we were going to go, what seed; there was a buzz on campus.”
Surrounded by faculty, staff, students and all the fanfare, Larrick and the CSU Bucs basketball team gathered for the traditional NCAA preview show in the University cafeteria. The crowd watched in anticipation to learn where, when and who they would play.
“The excitement of seeing your name pop up on the screen,” said Larrick, who led the Bucs in scoring in 1996-1997 his senior year, averaging 20 points per game. “We already knew we were in, but I don’t think we popped up until the last bracket. I’m thinking, ‘Oh man, did they forget us?’ But, no matter who we were gonna play, that joy of being on the same level of everybody else, putting our name on that line of the bracket.”
Charleston Southern University flashed on the projection screen. The cafeteria exploded in cheers. Moments later, the news was announced: The Bucs would travel 688 miles to Michigan to play one of college basketball’s legendary teams, the UCLA Bruins.
“That whole week before was so surreal,” said Larrick. “The first couple days of practice were tough; it was hard to concentrate. Obviously, we were still on Cloud Nine a little bit.”
One week later it was over. UCLA eliminated Charleston Southern 109-75 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
The March Madness seeding marked the first and – to date – only time the Charleston Southern University basketball program has appeared in the NCAA tournament. Just like that, Larrick’s college basketball career was over. The 6’ 4” senior guard from Elyria, Ohio, scored a team-high 32 points against the Bruins, including six three-pointers.
It was his last, and arguably, his best single-game performance as a CSU Buccaneer. The reach of playing on national television is not understood until days, weeks, months and years after the game. “I had friends all over who saw us, a couple of Marines in California saw us while they were at sea on the ship,” said Larrick.
Four years, one business degree and a trip to the Big Dance later, Larrick left CSU. He was inducted into the Charleston Southern athletic Hall of Fame in October 2004. For more information on CSU sports, visit CSUSports.com.
Founded in 1964, Charleston Southern University is a private, four-year liberal arts college. CSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. The university's vision is to be a Christian university nationally recognized for integrating faith in learning, leading and serving.