Vanderbilt's men's basketball team received its SEC Championship rings on Friday during an on-field presentation before the Commodore baseball team opened a three-game set against Kentucky.
The men's basketball team defeated No. 1 Kentucky 71-64 on March 11 to claim its first SEC Tournament title since 1951. With the players heading their separate ways after finals are complete next week, Friday's ceremony represented the last time for the foreseeable future that the entire team was together in public.
Despite a few sprinkles falling from the sky during the presentation, a good number of Commodore fans arrived to the game 20 minutes early to congratulate the team on their accomplishment. Being able to receive their rings together in front of fans was very much appreciated by the players.
"It was great," senior forward Steve Tchiengang said. "It is a product of a lot of hard work. That's my first and only college ring so I'm going to enjoy it as much as I can."
Vice Chancellor David Williams distributed the rings to each member of the team and congratulated them for their championship. As each ring was presented, the players' eyes lit up with excitement as they examined their new hardware.
For Tchiengang, the owner of a 10-character surname that is often misspelled, his eyes immediately looked for his name.
"The first thing I looked at was to make sure they spelled my name right, which was a check," Tchiengang said. "I think the rocks on top of it are real so it is nice, I like it."
After the rings presentation, Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch. Despite never throwing a baseball before tossing four warmup pitches, the 6-foot-11 center fired a pitch that was a little high, but right down the middle of the plate.
"It was my first pitch ever, actually, so that was pretty good," Ezeli said. "I thought it was going to bounce. Everybody kept saying, 'don't let it bounce,' so I thought it was going to be a whole lot harder than it was."