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Reliving four years of memories

Hanging from two nails on the wall of my room are nearly 30 press passes.

Each is unique in its own way. Some are big and laminated, while others are small and flimsy. Some have elaborate designs that include action photos, while others are simply monotone yellow.

And although they might appear like a bunch of random pieces of paper to most people, they are the most prized possessions I've acquired during college.

Each of them represents a different memory from my time as a member of the sports staff of The Chronicle. And I've gotten more out of the countless hours I've spent working for this paper than I have in any of my classes.

In this, the last column or story I'll ever write for this publication, I'd like to share a few of the most memorable stories behind those press passes.

I obtained the largest one and the only one that includes photo ID the summer after my freshman year. I was sent to the NBA Draft in New York to cover Luol Deng and Duke recruit-turn-pro Shaun Livingston. Two things stick out in my mind about that night.

As centerpieces on each of the players' tables, the NBA places a basketball that has the players' name engraved on the side. Wisconsin's Devin Harris couldn't resist the temptation to play with it. In the middle of a crowd of family members, guests and media members, Harris took his ball and began throwing no-look passes around the room, paying little attention to the people he might hit or the things he might knock over. Don't worry, all of his passes found their targets.

Later that night, the Phoenix Suns drafted Deng with the seventh pick. He came to the media room wearing a Suns hat when media members began asking him if he was excited that he'd be suiting up for the Bulls. He didn't even know he had been traded. Even amid the excitement and confusion, he made sure to walk over to shake my hand on the way out of the room. I was just a college reporter who had hardly covered the men's basketball at the time, but that he sought me out anyhow showed a lot of class.

The Cameron season pass I earned my junior year carries with it the most memories. Covering a game in Cameron is unlike any experience in any other venue I've been to. The sensation of walking out onto Coach K floor on the way to the Chronicle's seats just off center court is something I'll always cherish.

The game that sticks out the most was against Virginia Tech last season-the one when Sean Dockery hit his amazing buzzer-beater. Dockery shot the ball from just in front of where I was sitting, and so I had the perfect angle as it soared toward the hoop. For everyone that was at the game, what ensued can be described only as absolute pandemonium.

Amazingly, I didn't react. I sat there as reporters are supposed to do, scribbled a few thoughts in my notepad, and quickly walked off the court to avoid the Crazies rushing it. The mood in the locker room after the game that night was as jubilant as I've ever seen it. And I'll never forget the smile on Dockery's face as I asked him questions.

As much as those two nights provided personal thrills for me as a student reporter, they only scratch the surface of the memories and relationships I've formed from covering sporting events for The Chronicle.

My collection of credentials represents the relationships I've formed with players and coaches from the several teams I've covered as beat writer. They remind me of funny stories from Chronicle trips to every school in the ACC school. And they signify the friendships I've forged with other Chronicle sports staffers.

I joined the sports staff because I loved sports and thought it would be an incredible opportunity to write about them.

It became a passion.

I used to think my press pass collection wasn't complete because I never got one from the Final Four. But looking back, I can't complain. I couldn't ask for more.

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