WASHINGTON – For Jordan Hawkins, this was the moment the president turned on him and started joking about the one-on-one family game and raved about his Final Four performance after waking up up all night with stomach problems.
“When Joe Biden like he singled me out, I thought, ‘Oh (wow),’ said Hawkins. “It was pretty cool. I didn’t expect it at all. I will definitely tell my grandchildren about it.”
Andre Jackson and Adama Sanogo present President Biden with his UConn No. 46 jersey.
“You don’t want him to send you,” Hurley to Biden pic.twitter.com/AFqSVnukhW
— Joe Arruda (@joearruda9) May 26, 2023
Andre Jackson walked the halls with his UConn teammates, mesmerized by the gorgeous images of presidents and first ladies.
“My favorite part was the graphics,” said Jackson. “All the people I learned about in history class just by being there and looking at the original paintings.”
National champions finally lined up on the dais in the East Room of the White House between paintings by George and Martha Washington as 80-year-old President Joe Biden, resting from the troubles of the nation and the world on Friday afternoon, listed and praised their achievements.
“One of the best shows in the country,” Biden said. “And that’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact. …You started the year unranked and then went 14-0. Then, to keep everyone’s attention, you lost six out of eight matches. But you have a coach who has decided it doesn’t matter and hell knows a thing or two about how to win. And you rebounded with a resounding 15-2 run.
All of these achievements, culminating in victories over Miami and San Diego State in Houston’s Final Four, the last of six consecutive double-figure victories in the NCAA Tournament, will be covered at future conventions. Five years, 10 years, 25, 50.
This ceremony, one of the spoils that Andrew Jackson believes belongs to such a victor, marks the end, the last in a long series of exclamation marks.
Hurley: A Day We Will Never Forget pic.twitter.com/E9n1UTHS5f
— Amore House (@AmoreCourant) May 26, 2023
“We don’t know many other people to ask what it’s like,” Hurley said. “Because nobody comes here, it’s such a special experience. For us, it closes what the team achieved last year. I feel like it was the perfect end to a magical season.”
It’s best practice for champions to savor these moments, because no matter how strong the program is, even if it’s a #5 championship, or how exciting the recruiting class is, there’s no guarantee that things like this will happen again. The convoy back to campus, the Hartford parade, throwing first pitches at major league games, ringing the opening bell on Wall Street, everything. The people at UConn deserved it all. All that’s left is a performance at Fenway Park.
After the 15-minute ceremony, Biden boarded a helicopter to Camp David, and the Huskies, heading for their plane, will also go their separate ways. Hawkins and Adama Sanogo are headed for the NBA Draft, Jackson will likely follow suit. Tristen Newton hasn’t committed yet. A new class of freshmen, rated one of the best in the country, arrives on campus next week.
“Some of our players are going through the draft process,” said freshman Alex Karaban. “For them, coming back for it really felt like the end. We will miss all of them, hopefully we will meet again sometime in the future, but this really feels like the end.
Earlier in the day, the president had joked with Hawkins’ cousin Angel Reese while she was in the east room with her team, the LSU Women’s National Champion, telling her he would bet on her in a one-on-one matchup with the UConn star.
He also joked with the young children in the audience and begged Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who was injured inmishap on the parade.
“He was great with our players,” said Hurley. “He calmed us down. He was so relative. We had a great experience talking to him. Cool dude.”
Hurley had a little more fun with the post-championship incident where Biden called and the coach didn’t answer the phone. “I cleaned myself up, told stories there, but talked to my wife,” Hurley said.
“When he walked into the room,” Karaban said, “you see the president everywhere, you see him on video, he’s giving an interview, but seeing him eye to eye was something I never thought would happen.”
For example, Hawkins would never have guessed that the lemonade served at the White House was as good as it was. Even lemonade tastes better when you toast the championship with the president of the United States.
“It was crazy,” said Hawkins, who grew up in Maryland. “I never thought I’d be in the White House, growing up here, seeing the White House every day, but being there is completely different.”
It was a day, Hurley Biden told, “we will never forget it.” Hurley said all he wanted in April was to lead this group a few more games, but it has to end and the White House is the final stop, the place to turn the pages of history, to say goodbye to a group the coach likes to stick together forever.
“There will be some descents,” said Hurley. “We’ll always be together because of the history we’ve made together.”