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The Magic behind the Men

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Take an inside look at how student-athletes have prepared for their Final Four moment.

Photo by NCAA.


Two things that build student-athletes are hard work and dedication, but the two things that mold student-athletes to champions are music and culture.

At the men’s Final Four, the No. 2 seed of the South region, the Houston Cougars, will battle the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, the Baylor Bears. While, the No. 1 seed of the West region, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, will look to continue their perfect season against the No. 11 seed of the East region, the UCLA Bruins.

Through student-athletes’ upbringings and favorite music artists, opportunity will meet preparation in Indianapolis.

Born and raised in the seventh ward of New Orleans, DeJon Jarreau is a senior guard for the Cougars that uses his values to fulfill his dreams. The seventh ward was not a cakewalk, according to Jarreau, but he believed that growing up there prepared him for the real world. He takes what his family instilled in him and uses it to conquer obstacles in his life and to “set up hope” for the youth.

Jarreau was named the Midwest Regional Most Outstanding Player.

Photo by Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

After helping the Cougars defeat Syracuse in the Elite Eight, he dedicated the win to his childhood friend who suffered a brain aneurysm and later passed away.

“Not many of us get the opportunity to make it out of New Orleans and try to fulfil their dreams,” he said.

With his determination to succeed despite his circumstances, Jarreau helped the Cougars make their first Final Four appearance since 1984. In the tournament, he is averaging nine points, 4.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 38% (13-for-34) from the field.

He was named the Midwest Regional Most Outstanding Player, and the Cougars are second in the country in scoring defense by holding opponents to an average of 57.6 points per game.

Similarly, Gonzaga’s Aaron Cook was born and raised in St. Louis, which is a city that produces exceptional basketball talent, such as Larry Hughes, Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum.

“Being around Jayson has really helped me grow as a player,” Cook said. “I think a big part of our success was Bradley Beal and also Larry Hughes.”

Cook credited Tatum for the expansion of his game and praised Beal and Hughes’ involvement that helped lead him and his St. Louis peers to be recruited to college in 2016.

In the tournament, Cook is averaging 4.8 points, 2.3 assists and 1.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 60% (6-for-10) from the field and 65% (5-for-8) from 3-point range.

The diverse set of artists in Cooks’ music selection helps him get locked-in before each game.

“I listen to a lot of hip-hop,” he said. “That’s just like my go-to, especially when I need to get pumped up”

When Cook is on the floor, he provides a spark that helps push his team to victory, and he will exude these qualities when he and his team attempt to advance to and win the NCAA Championship with a perfect record, which is a feat that has not happened since Indiana in 1975-1976.

Music is essential to get in the zone for UCLA’s Jamie Jaquez Jr. as well. Through his “pregame playlists,” he listens to different hip-hop artists, such as Drake, Lil Baby and Polo G. Recently, he has started to listen to Kendrick Lamar more before games.

“I’m going back to his music just because he’s from LA,” Jacquez Jr. said. “Just trying to get that going in my head.”

Born in Compton, Calif., Kendrick Lamar is a 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner for music and is praised by critics and fans through his dense music. Likewise, Jacquez Jr. was awarded by the Pac-12 as he earned second-team all-conference honors, and he was named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team. He uses artists like Kendrick Lamar to continue motivating him on his team’s journey to the top.

In the tournament, he is averaging 14.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1 block per game, while shooting 47% (27-for-57) from the field and shooting 47% (7-for-15) from 3-point range.

Jacquez Jr. and the Bruins have their work cut out for them against Gonzaga, but UCLA has been doubted throughout this tournament, and it fuels their fire.

Win or lose, these players are amped up for the chance to display their preparation and talents on college basketball’s biggest stage.

Jacquez Jr. celebrating with his teammate.

Photo by AJ Mast/ AP Photo.


Derrian Carter is a senior, who is a part of the United States Writers Basketball Association mentorship program. He is a mass media arts major with a concentration in journalism. Email Derrian at:

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