NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - If fan support could win basketball games, then the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks basketball team has nothing to worry about.
East Texas News' first coverage of this morning's send off for the NCAA Tournament-bound 'Jacks came to you minutes after it happened on KTRE Facebook and www.ktre.com.
The team has a special place in the hearts of a local church.
When the SFA men's basketball players started boarding their charter buses Wednesday morning, the crowd chanted, "SFA! SFA! SFA!"
SFA students and cheerleaders are expected at a Lumberjacks send off.
But some may be surprised to see a more mature bunch in the crowd.
The SFA Lumberjacks may have family all over the United States and Texas, but they also have a big family right here in Nacogdoches. They were adopted by the First United Methodist Church.
"At the request of the coach and we've been supporters throughout the season," said Cindy Himes, a member of First United Methodist Church. "Congratulations."
"It feels like I have a family away from home, so it's been real comfortable," said Deshaunt Walker, a member of the Lumberjacks basketball team. "They came to all the games."
"They're the best," said Reed Westbrook, a member of the Lumberjacks basketball team. "Always here for me."
"We've got to know the boys so well. We feel like they are just family," said Russell Hairston, a First United Methodist member. "They're great kids. They're our team now."
The only complaint heard by adopted moms and dads is they're so limited in what they can do for the players. Conference rules frown on favors. Fortunately, a home-cooked meal, love, and prayers seem to be plenty for the Lumberjacks.
"It's a blessing," said Desmond Haymon, a member of the Lumberjacks basketball team. "I give all thanks to God to be in this situation."
Coach Brad Underwood is gracious for the support his home church gives the team.
"It's a relationship that won't last just this season," Underwood said. "It will last beyond that and we're very, very appreciative of that."
The team gazed through the darkly tinted windows of the shiny charter bus to grab one more glance of what's helped them all season long.
The cheering and support will continue even when the team is more than 1,500 miles away. Stephen F. Austin State University basketball fans and alumni from around the country are setting up "watch parties" for this weekend's historic clash between SFA and Virginia Commonwealth University at the NCAA San Diego Regional.
Lumberjacks living and working in the Nacogdoches area can watch the game at Fuzzy's Taco Shop. The SFA Theatre in the University Center will also show the game.