Alumni get inside look at March Madness, Final Four

Sam Johnson tapes the ankle of Miami basketball player Norchad Omier prior to a NCAA Tournament game.
Sam Johnson, '14, tapes the ankle of Miami basketball player Norchad Omier prior to an NCAA Tournament game.
Image credit - Courtesy

By Clémence Daniere, student writer

The NCAA men’s and women’s national basketball tournaments rank among the top sporting events in the nation, and a pair of Grand Valley graduates had an insider’s perspective to this year’s spectacles. 

GVSU graduates Sam Johnson, ’14 and Andrea Chilcote, ’12, are athletic trainers for teams that advanced to the Final Four and national championship games. Chilcote has been athletic trainer with the Iowa women’s team for a year while Johnson has been athletic trainer for the Miami men’s team for two seasons. 

“College athletics is a lot of really hard work, and a lot of really hard times, but it pays off because all of a sudden you’re at a national championship,” Chilcote said.

Friends since high school, they went through part of the program at GVSU after Johnson joined on a recommendation from Chilcote. 

Chilcote, who was a high school student athlete, had always been interested in sports. In her time at Grand Valley, she found her passion in athletic training and helping people perform at their highest level. 

Andrea Chilcote, '12, tapes the ankle of an Iowa basketball player.
Andrea Chilcote, '12, tapes the ankle of an Iowa basketball player.
Image credit - Courtesy

After graduation, she said she hoped to join a baseball club, but instead she found her skills better suited for basketball. 

Iowa had a dominant season with one of the best players in the nation, Caitlin Clark. The Hawkeyes reached the Final Four, beating South Carolina in the national semifinal game. 

But, the Hawkeyes’ dream for a national title fell short, losing to LSU in the national championship game on April 2. 

“My life would not be the same without Grand Valley,” Chilcote said. “Every single person who had a hand in my education has helped me get to where I am today. They have made me the athletic trainer I am today. Truly, Grand Valley was the springboard to my career.” 

Johnson, like Chilcote, initially thought that he would be working in another sport, he said. In his case, he thought his career path was with a football team. 

“During my grad program, they put me with men’s basketball, and that's when I fell in love with it and have been doing men’s basketball since,” Johnson said. 

This year, Miami advanced to the men’s Final Four for the first time in program history. Eventual national champion Connecticut knocked them out in the national semifinal game however. Johnson said he and the Hurricanes enjoyed their tournament run for as long as they could.  

“The dream has always been to help a team win a national championship or get to the Final Four,” he said. “Did I think that was gonna happen this soon? Absolutely not, but life is full of surprises, and I’m really proud of how hard my team has worked and the motivation they have.”

Johnson said his time at Grand Valley set the foundation for his professional journey. 

“I look back at my education at Grand Valley and notice that every athletic trainer I’ve known through my time at the program has been successful,” Johnson said. “Success may look different for me and them, but I’ve seen them advance and get higher positions because of their knowledge.” 


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