WINONA, Minn. - It started just as talk.
"This was right after they won their national championships and I told him I was going to win a national championship," Winona State Senior Forward Clayton Vette said.
"He did say to me, if I come to Winona, I'll win you a national championship," WSU Head Coach Mike Leaf said. "He actually looked at me very seriously and I said, hey I'm ready for the ride."
"Might be coming off a little cocky or something like that but obviously you come to a program like Winona State, you expect those things," Vette said.19466092
That moxie has the Warriors three wins away form holding true to that promise, which nearly was never made. There was a time Vette thought about quitting basketball altogether.
"He had gone to a larger school, Iowa State, and coming from a small town like Waverly, Iowa, it was difficult for him to blend in," Leaf said.
"After I left Iowa State, I really didn't want to play basketball anymore and just wanted to go back home and work," Vette said.
It's a good thing Vette didn't quit. If the All-American and his Warriors win two more games, they'll be playing in Atlanta. For the first time ever, the Div. 2 championships are a part of the Div. 1 festivities.
"It's the 75th anniversary of the Final Four for Div. 1," WSU Athletics Director Eric Schoh said. "They wanted to make it more of a basketball festival and what they could do to make it an even bigger even than what the Final Four already is. The idea came forward to have the Div. 2 and Div. 3 championships be a part of that weekend."
All those years growing up, watching the March Madness tournament, watching the National title game, it would just be neat to be down in that same area, and to know you're a part of that," Junior Guard Taylor Cameron said.
For Clayton Vette, making it to Atlanta would be more than just a kept promise.
"That would be a dream come true," Vette said.
WSU plays Western Liberty Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Louisville. The game can be seen live on News8000.com. If WSU wins, their game Saturday at 11:00 a.m. can be seen on MyNetwork, Digital Channel 8.2.