INDIANAPOLIS - Dalton Pepper was beginning to lead his Pennsbury [Pa.] High team to its fourth straight undefeated league championship when he spoke to West Virginia assistant coach Billy Hahn.
The silver-haired sidekick to head coach Bob Huggins was trying to recruit Pepper and mentioned that the guard would win a national championship if he signed with the Mountaineers.
"I was just thinking, 'Aw, yeah, right. He's just saying that so I'd come here,''' Pepper said on Friday. "I guess he was right.''
Well, almost. The Mountaineers are in the Final Four and within one victory of a national championship showdown. They play Duke tonight for that opportunity.
For most, that opportunity never arises. For WVU freshmen Pepper, Deniz Kilicli and Dan Jennings, however, it's one year, one Final Four.
"I knew we were going to be a good team,'' Pepper said. "The preseason rankings were high, and we have a lot of good players. But at the beginning of the season, I didn't think we were a Final Four team. I didn't think that until the end of the season when we started clicking, playing our best basketball.
"It goes to show that not only are we in the Final Four, we can win a national championship.''
Making Hahn look very good indeed.
"I guess he was right,'' Pepper said. "He didn't lie.''
Pepper has averaged 3.2 points and 7.8 minutes of playing time. Jennings is averaging 4.8 minutes.
Perhaps the freshman with the most impact, however, was Kilicli, the Turkish product, who played just 14 games after a suspension held him back for 20 games. Kilicli averaged 3.4 points, 0.9 rebounds and 6.6 minutes.
He provided a spark, though, from time to time, as well as a moment of humor Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium during media interviews.