The Aggie men’s basketball team made history this year by making it to the biggest Division I basketball tournament of them all: the NCAA’s March Madness. As they won the ‘First Four’ game and advanced to a first-round match up against Kansas, they put UC Davis at the forefront of people’s hearts and minds around the world. Among the thousands of fans cheering them on, some of the most enthusiastic were UC Davis’ 1998 NCAA Division II National Championship team.
“It brings back memories of my time at UC Davis,” said Justis Durkee ’99 who played center for UC Davis’ 1998 championship team. “I kind of know what they’re going through. As a fan and a former player, it’s been a gift to cherish this time and watch the Aggies experience this new opportunity.”
A CAAA Lifetime Member, Durkee now works as a senior software engineer at Mytrus Inc., a clinical trials software company located in Davis. Thanks in part to his nearby employer, he returns to campus frequently for athletic events – including basketball, water polo and football – as well as for Picnic Day. He believes these events keep alumni, students and friends of the university connected and excited about UC Davis. He also enjoys bringing his family along. Both of his daughters – ages 9 and 10 – play sports, and he has coached their soccer, lacrosse and basketball teams.
“The university has given me so much,” said Durkee. “As a student-athlete, I had an instant family. I had people who were pretty much in the same boat as me, trying to balance school and athletic responsibilities. And although I sometimes don’t see them for a few years, when we reunite at an alumni event or catch a game, we instantly pick up right where we left off.”
Kevin Nosek ’99 played guard for UC Davis’ 1998 championship team and is now an assistant coach for the Aggies, having just finished his 15th season as a member of the men’s basketball staff. But even as a young child, he volunteered as a ball boy at UC Davis, where his father Stan Nosek worked for 35 years.
“Because I’ve been at UC Davis for so long, I find myself in a position of embracing these types of moments – such as the Big West Tournament championship and the NCAA Tournament appearance – to bring together our Aggie basketball alumni,” said Nosek, a CAAA Lifetime Member. “I am also incredibly proud of this team. For us to go to that conference tournament and play our best basketball speaks volumes about these young men.”
Nosek admits being overwhelmed with pride when the Aggies won the Big West Tournament to advance to the NCAA March Madness this year, noting how the exposure would help UC Davis Athletics as well as the university as a whole.
“I could feel alumni and other fans all around the world excited for us,” he said. “It’s almost nearly impossible for me to put into words what that felt like. Winning the Big West Tournament and appearing in the NCAA Tournament was a lifetime dream and a magical moment. I don’t know how we’ll top it until we top it at this point.”
He added, “As a program, we’re going to continue to work to return to the NCAA Tournament in the future. We’re not going to sit back and rest on this season. It will propel us forward as a department, a basketball program and a university.”