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Mike Lopresti | | March 18, 2014

Parents fly from Australia to see sons play in First Four

DAYTON, Ohio -- The father wearing the Albany hoodie, standing behind section 105, had a travel story to tell. Most parents would do nearly anything to watch their children play in the NCAA tournament. Gregg and Catherine Rowley had just flown 8,000 miles.

They had bought their airline tickets back home in Sydney, Australia having no idea when their sons would be playing in the tournament for Albany, or where. They picked Dayton on a flyer. If they had to change, they would, no matter the cost.

"We figured," Gregg said, "we had to get to the U.S. first."

Good guess. The NCAA committee indeed sent the Albany Great Danes to Dayton to play Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday night. So here the Rowleys were, with time to spare and jet lag to ignore. Down on the floor, the Albany team was warming up to open the 2014 NCAA tournament, including starting junior forward Sam Rowley and freshman reserve Mike Rowley.

“Just before we got on the plane, we found out it was in Dayton, so we didn’t have to change,” he said. “It’s about a 16-hour flight to Dallas. Had a layover in Dallas for about five hours. Nipped out to see the JFK museum, and then we flew from Dallas straight to Dayton.

“It’s amazing. In Australia this is a big tournament but here it is huge. To have two sons playing in the tournament is quite special to us.”

He never played basketball, but his sons became involved with the game as kids. They grew up watching Duke and North Carolina. Who know they would also one day learn of Albany, would play there, and their road would end up in the NCAA tournament they once watched from a different hemisphere?

Gregg and Catherine weren’t about to miss it last year when Albany made the field, and they weren’t about to miss it this year.

Though it was Sam who said at Monday’s Albany press conference, “It’s just any excuse to get out of work, I think.”

Gregg said Tuesday night, “He’s probably going to get me into trouble.”

Or maybe not. Back in Australia, he works for a telecommunications company. “The CEO,” he said, “is a big basketball fan.”

As of early Tuesday night evening, their return ticket was still a little open. The scoreboard of the Mount St. Mary’s game would dictate that. “We can always change it,” Gregg said. “We’re going to stay as long as they win game. We’re positive that we’re flying to Orlando.”

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