Keith Srakocic, Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — The last time Southern Miss guard Darnell Dodson walked onto the court for an NCAA tournament game, he was wearing Kentucky blue trying to help the Wildcats to their first Final Four in 12 years.
Instead, Dodson managed just six points in a 73-66 loss to West Virginia in the 2010 East regional final then slumped off the floor and into oblivion.
Kentucky coach John Calipari cut Dodson the following summer, jumpstarting a chain of events that had Dodson wondering if he'd ever play basketball again. Dodson was arrested for disorderly conduct in Lexington in October 2010 before finding a safe landing spot playing for Larry Eustachy at Southern Miss.
Dodson's career with the Golden Eagles nearly ended before it began. He was kicked off the team after pleading guilty to grand larceny last spring only to be brought back for one last chance in December.
The smooth-shooting 6-foot-7 Dodson hasn't let Eustachy's benevolence go to waste. Dodson averaged 11.1 points in 23 games for the Golden Eagles as they won 25 games and made the NCAA tournament field for the first time since 1991. Southern Miss faces eighth-seeded Kansas State on Thursday.
Dodson just shook his head when talking about his humbling trip back to March Madness, crediting Eustachy for helping him deal with his inner demons.
"Coach helped me keep my head on straight," Dodson said. "Around the time (I was arrested) there was a lot of doubt in my mind of whether I'd play again."
Eustachy is a firm believer in forgiveness and praised Dodson for his maturity.
"I've always said it's not if you fall in the gutter, it's whether you get up and try to do something about it," Eustachy said. "Darnell is a great example of that. He's addressed his issues. He's made amends for his mistakes."
PEYTON'S PLACE: That other Peyton — Louisville's Peyton Siva — was about the only member of the Cardinals' basketball program who was hoping for a cross-country trip when the NCAA tournament field was revealed.
Siva got his wish when the fourth-seeded Cardinals were sent to Portland, Ore., for a second-round game against 13th-seeded Davidson. Not a bad way for the Seattle native to potentially finish out his junior season at Louisville, especially after leading the Cardinals to the Big East tournament championship last weekend. Siva was named tournament's most outstanding player after averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists in Louisville's four tourney wins.
"Nobody really wanted to come to Portland, you know. It really didn't matter to me. If we came to Portland, I have a lot of my family members can come," Siva said. "It's great to come back to the Northwest, and it feels good."
Siva is the second player out of Seattle that Louisville coach Rick Pitino lured East. Terrence Williams starred at Seattle's Rainier Beach High and went on to play four years for the Cardinals. Just up the road at Seattle's Franklin was Siva.
"I'll have a lot of family and a lot of coaches, and friends coming up here from Seattle to Portland," Siva said. "So it should be fun. We should have a pretty good crowd."
Not everyone at Louisville was pleased with the Portland placement. Pitino said his understanding was the Cardinals would be placed in a sub-region that did not play on the same day as the one being hosted by the Cardinals in Louisville.
"I'd rather be in our backyard. We're almost in the Pacific Ocean," Pitino joked. "It surprised us, but once you get here, it's a great city, a great arena."
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