By Billy Corriher
Jonesboro native David Leoni has been waiting for Georgia Tech to make it to the NCAA Final Four for three years, ever since he started school there.
When Tech made it this year, Leoni and his friends camped out in the rain Monday night with hundreds of other students for Final Four tickets and decided to drive to San Antonio for the game.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said. "If we don't do it now, who's to say when we'll go back (to the Final Four)?"
Leoni said students on campus are thrilled about the Yellow Jackets' performance so far, but he doesn't want their tournament run to end when they face Oklahoma State tonight.
"We've been underdogs the whole tournament, so why stop now?" he said. "I personally don't want us to settle for just being happy to be here."
Hampton native Mitch Dishman, also a junior at Georgia Tech, said the campus has been "extremely excited" about the team's success so far, and he doesn't think the revelry will end with a loss to Oklahoma State tonight.
"I think there'll be a heck of a celebration Saturday night," he said.
Dishman said he has been to every home game since he came to the university.
Amir Patel, a recent Tech graduate, was back on campus Friday morning to watch the games with friends this weekend.
"It's amazing how much these guys have accomplished without having a star player," he said.
Patel paused to wave at a passing van that was honking wildly and covered with Yellow Jacket gold and banners supporting the team.
"It's really made me proud to have gone to school here," he said. "I love it."
McDonough resident James Nelson, who works as director of employee training at Georgia Tech, said the entire campus has been in awe of the men's basketball team.
"We're all excited," he said. "I think a lot of people on campus really admire coach (Paul) Hewitt and what's he's doing with those kids."
Nelson said that without a real star player, the team has relied on teamwork and solid leadership for its success.
Georgia Tech junior Jonathan Hamner of Jonesboro said he was also surprised by how well Tech has played after losing Chris Bosh, last year's star forward.
"I really didn't see this coming," he said. "I didn't think we'd go as far as we did, but it's a pleasant surprise."
Hamner said that Tech students are behind the team all the way.
"Things are getting pretty crazy around campus," he said. "It's been incredible."