McKillop, school embrace diversity and, as a result, so do his players.
Eric Lacy / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- We as Metro Detroiters could learn quite a bit from Davidson College, its players and coach Bob McKillop, who has one of the most diverse teams in basketball.
In the Midwest Regional, hosted in an area that still has a disconnect between the city and suburbs, one that doesn't always sing together in racial harmony, the Wildcats dazzle with unselfish play based on principles of unity and acceptance.
At a time of political chaos for Detroit, a community bogged down by decades of social and economic issues, McKillop's squad thrives at Ford Field and hopes for another encore on the big stage, this time against No. 1 seed Kansas at 5:05 today.
Sports has always been one aspect of this area that has brought people together. And the story behind Davidson, a liberal arts school of 1,700 students in Davidson, N.C., is an inspiring one that needs to be told.
McKillop, an Irish Catholic from Queens, N.Y., spoke with conviction Saturday at Ford Field when asked about the makeup of his squad. The group clearly means everything to him.
"You got a guy from Nigeria, a guy from the rich suburbs of Barrington, Ill., you have the son of a cheese maker from Montreal, Canada, we have some diversity and we get along as a team," McKillop said. "We must have something there and I think it's balance. You need that kind of balance in this word."
Davidson's figurative scale for measuring success involves the proper mix of freedom, discipline and unselfishness.
There are no barriers, players don't try to outshine each other and there's an overall love shared on and off the court, said guard Stephen Curry, this NCAA Tournament's national story because of the shooting tear he has been on.
Curry's scoring often appears effortless, but the son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry continues to follow, like everyone else, the "humility before honor" approach.
"It doesn't motivate me to prove to other teams that I can play," Stephen Curry said. "I'm not like that. I have more motivation just for myself and for my teammates."
Based on the comments of his star player, McKillop's dream of having a program that not only wins but also teaches life lessons has definitely come true.
In fact, McKillop often looks beyond a prospect's basketball skills to see if they are a good fit for the school. Andrew Lovedale, a forward from England by way of Benin City, Nigeria, is a prime example.
McKillop discovered Lovedale in Manchester, England while the prospect swept a court and coached children at the Amaechi Basketball Centre.
"That was part of my evaluation, to see they way he handled things other than basketball," said McKillop of the initial meeting. "You could just see the genuine care Andrew had, that he took his job seriously. He's a marvelous young man."
Lovedale is not only grateful for the opportunity to play Division I basketball but he also feels obligated to carry out his coach's philosophy every day.
"He tells us all the time, 'You help someone, you help yourself,' " Lovedale said.
That mantra appears to be one followed by many on campus and around Davidson, about 20 miles north of Charlotte.
Asked to describe the community, McKillop said it was "unparalleled" to most college towns because of its intimacy. It's a city of about 9,000.
"The town and college are married together," McKillop said. "You have 1,700 students on campus and they know each other in a very personal way. You have PHDs, they aren't grad assistants or one year teaching assignments, they invest their whole lives in Davidson. Now they see some part of Davidson reaching the national stage.
"We've always sold the fact that when Davidson wins, we all win."
In many ways, no matter what happens against the Jayhawks, it appears that college hoops' new Cinderella team, and those that support its philosophy and values, are already winners.