Months later, Bud Thomas and the seniors on the Mercer men’s basketball team got to celebrate their greatest triumph again.
The Regis Jesuit High School grad and his teammates pulled off the shocker of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on March 21, as the 14th-seeded Bears knocked off third-seeded Duke 78-71 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
Thomas scored just two points against coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils — one of the teams Thomas always followed in the NCAA tournament growing up — but dished out five assists and played strong defensively for Mercer, the Atlantic Sun Conference champion which lost in the next round to Tennessee.
The Mercer seniors were in the crowd in Los Angeles when the award was presented Wednesday night. The Mercer upset topped Connecticut’s victory over Florida in the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game and Chris Weidman’s upset knockout of 10-time UFC champion Anderson Silva.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning also won two ESPY awards, for Best Record-Breaking Performance as well as Best NFL Player.
2014 ESPY WINNERS
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Winners at the 2014 ESPY Awards presented Wednesday:
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Richard Sherman; Best Moment: U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team; Best Game: Iron Bowl; Best Record-Breaking Performance: Peyton Manning; Best Play: Chris Davis; Best Female Athlete: Ronda Rousey; Best Male Athlete: Kevin Durant; Best Team: Seattle Seahawks; Best Upset: MERCER; Best Female Action Sports Athlete: Jamie Anderson; Best Male Action Sports Athlete: Nyjah Houston; Best Female Athlete with a Disability: Jamie Whitmore; Best Male Athlete with a Disability: Declan Farmer; Best Female College Athlete: Breanna Stewart; Best Male College Athlete: Doug McDermott; Best Coach/Manager: Gregg Popovich; Best MLS Player: Tim Cahill; Best NBA Player: Kevin Durant; Best NFL Player: Peyton Manning; Best NHL Player: Sidney Crosby; Best MLB Player: Miguel Cabrera; Best WNBA Player: Maya Moore; Best Female US Olympian: Jamie Anderson; Best Male US Olympian: Sage Kotsenburg; Championship Performance: Kawhi Leonard; Best Bowler: Pete Weber; Best Female Tennis Player: Maria Sharapova; Best Male Tennis Player: Rafael Nadal; Best Comeback Athlete: Russell Westbrook; Best Female Golfer: Michelle Wie; Best Male Golfer: Bubba Watson; Best International Athlete: Cristiano Ronaldo; Best Fighter: Floyd Mayweather; Best Driver: Ryan Hunter-Reay; Best Jockey: Victor Espinoza
Jimmy V Perseverance Award: Stuart Scott; Arthur Ashe Courage Award: Michael Sam; Pat Tillman Award For Service: Josh Sweeney
— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes