A dream come true: former Lanett star taking on March Madness

Published 11:35 am Wednesday, March 20, 2024

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It is March, and that means it is time to start filling out brackets and carry a TV to work as one of the best tournaments in all of sports takes place. This year, there will be a local star participating in the madness. 

Grambling State beat Texas Southern 75-66 on Saturday to win the first Southwestern Athletic Conference championship in school history and clinch an automatic bid into the NCAA mens basketball tournament. 

Former Lanett star, Kintavious Dozier finished with 10 points, three rebounds and two assists in the game as the Tigers’ starting point guard. Dozier has made an impact in his first season with Grambling State, but few experiences match what he experienced on Saturday. 

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“It was a very surreal experience,” Dozier said. “Accomplishing that achievement with my brothers, for the first time for me being on that level, it was pretty amazing. It still hasn’t hit me yet. It’ll probably hit me later on.” 

The whole season has been somewhat of a whirlwind for Dozier. He and the rest of the teammates have become celebrities on campus, but Dozier has been far too busy with the task at hand to enjoy the notoriety. 

“It feels like life has just been in the locker room with the guys,” Dozier said. “We’ve been so busy, we’ve barely been on campus. The times we have been on campus, it’s been pretty amazing. … They feel like they’re a part of it too, which they are. We have great fans and supporters.” 

The team and all the supporters around the program came together to celebrate on Selection Sunday, but then it was back to business for the team. The process at this point of the season moves at a lightning-fast pace. The next day, Dozier and the Tigers found themselves on a plane preparing for their play-in matchup against Montana State on Wednesday. 

Dozier did not have much time to celebrate after making the tournament, but the whole season has been a celebration for him. Dozier made the first-team All-SWAC this season after averaging 13 points in his first season with Grambling State. 

“It means a lot,” Dozier said about making the first team. “It’s a wonderful and great feeling for the people that have been supporting me. For it being my first time playing Division I basketball and I was able to achieve something like that, it speaks volumes to what I do off the court.” 

One of the biggest changes for Dozier over the years has been his falling in love with the “boring stuff”. Dozier’s work ethic in film study and outside of normal practices has led to his improvement on the court. 

Grambling State was placed as a 16 seed on Selection Sunday, and the Tigers will face off against Montana State in a play-in game. The winner will then face off against no. 1 seed Purdue in the round of 64. 

Dozier and the Tigers have to avoid looking ahead to Purdue as each game in the tournament can easily be your last. 

“Win, that’s it,” Dozier said about the matchup against Montana State. “Almost the whole team can shoot the trey ball. There’s about four or five guys that shoot 40% from the three-point line. Our defense is designed to make teams take tough shots. They’re going to have to make that all night.” 

It is rare that a 16 seed advances past the round of 64, only two 16 seeds have won an NCAA tournament game with UMBC beating Virginia in 2018 and Fairleigh Dickinson beating Purdue in 2023. 

Lower seeds have won more games over the past five years, and Purdue’s history in the tournament under coach Matt Painter has Dozier and Grambling State looking at a potential Cinderella run. 

“I think every game that I and my brothers play in, I think we have the possibility of winning every time,” Dozier said. “You know what they say about March Madness, anything can happen.” 

Few, if any, local players have gotten the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. Winning is the top priority, but Grambling State coach Donte’ Jackson wants Dozier and the team to also enjoy the experience. 

“He wants us just to take it all in and enjoy the moment,” Dozier said. “Don’t make it more than what it is. We’re doing something we’ve been doing since we were little kids, which is the game of basketball. He wants us to enjoy the moment and do what we love, and he still wants to win like we do.” 

Dozier is now the pride of Lanett, and he still carries several aspects of his hometown with him. Dozier’s brother, Dante Wade, trained him when he was younger, and Wade is still one of Dozier’s biggest supporters through this journey. 

“We talked about these things since I was about … probably like sixth or seventh grade,” Dozier said. “He took me in, and I really appreciate that.” 

One of the main characteristics of athletes from Lanett is that they all have a chip on their shoulders. That chip has helped Dozier get to where he is, and the city and community have been a major part of his accomplishments. 

“Me going and touching the places where I’m touching, I for sure think about my hometown,” Dozier said. “They support me a lot. There’s so much love just from the Chambers County area.”