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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga fans make last-minute trek to Boise for first round of NCAA Tournament

UPDATED: Thu., March 15, 2018

It didn’t take too long for Rem Bakamus to learn that Gonzaga fans make being a die-hard fan look easy.

“I have a whole different outlook and a new respect for Gonzaga fans and the ones that follow the team,” the former Zag walk-on said. “It’s way more of a commitment than I ever knew when I was playing.”

It’s certainly a flip in perspective for the reserve guard, who was engrossed in the Gonzaga program for five seasons until he graduated last year.

Now Bakamus is a loyal fan, doing what he can to get in The Kennel on game nights and following the Zags on the road when he gets the OK to step away from his work for a couple of days at Scorebook Live.

On Wednesday, he was back on the road and heading south to Boise to cheer on his former team from the stands. He was one of many who made the last-minute decision to make the roughly six-hour drive to Boise to watch Gonzaga take on UNC Greensboro in the first round of the NCAA Tournament today.

Being so close to home, Bakamus half expects Boise State’s Taco Bell Arena to feel something similar to The Kennel at tipoff.

“It’s nice for everybody, because it’s (close to) Spokane, so there’s not a lot of excuses left on the table,” he said. “Well, except maybe just getting tickets for the games.”

All-sessions tickets skyrocketed not long after Gonzaga’s pod was announced during the NCAA Tournament selection show Sunday. Prices rose to as much as $1,600 by the time Sunday evening rolled around.

Bakamus lucked out with tickets and managed to find a place to stay after realizing nearly every hotel in downtown Boise was booked.

Although he knows what it’s like to be a Zag, Bakamus still has a lot to learn about how to be a die-hard fan. He could take some pointers from a few GU fanatics, like Jeff Sylvester, of Spokane.

Sylvester bought a handful of all-sessions tickets a year ago, hoping Gonzaga would have a decent chance at playing in Boise for the first weekend of the tournament. He snagged eight tickets for himself, family and friends for $250 a person to see all three sessions at Taco Bell Arena.

“It paid to get the tickets early,” he said.

Others weren’t so lucky. Some who didn’t take the gamble weren’t able to purchase tickets, but that didn’t stop a few from making the trip.

A small crowd of basketball fans, a handful in red and blue, gathered Wednesday at the arena for the team’s open practice. Sheila Busch sat halfway up the stands, proudly wearing her Bulldogs shirt.

She couldn’t afford the tickets, but she made the trip anyway, given that her sister lives in the area. She expects Zags fans to fill the TV when she watches from her sister’s home today.

“We travel really well,” she said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of them for the game.”

A good portion of fans in attendance will be students. Although some Gonzaga students can’t make the game because of spring break, others switched their plans.

Charlie Buker, a board member of Gonzaga’s student-run Kennel Club, and a couple of his friends were planning a road trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, and then to Leavenworth, Washington, where they planned to watch the game.

They made it to Vancouver just before they got word of where Gonzaga would play.

“Once we saw it was in Boise, we canceled that in a second and we made the trip down,” Buker said.

Buker and his friends were some of 50 students quick enough to grab tickets online before they were sold out in nearly 10 minutes. They cut their trip short, went to Seattle for a night and on Wednesday, they made the trip to Boise, which took nearly eight hours.

“Now that I have an opportunity to actually go to a Gonzaga postseason game, I’m not missing this chance,” he said.

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