Joe De Ciman is living every young basketball player's dream — a chance to play in March Madness.
The 19-year-old Regina product is a freshman on the Colorado State Rams. They face the Missouri Tigers Thursday night in the NCAA Tournament.
"It's amazing that I get to be a part of it," said De Ciman. "I'm getting a lot of mentions in my twitter, text messages from people back home, which I appreciate a lot. It's been great having all the support from people back home."
The 6-foot, 4-inch guard is in his first year with the Rams. He was heavily recruited by Canadian and American schools while attending Dr. Martin Leboldus High School in Regina. De Ciman admits adjusting to the NCAA game hasn't been easy.
He's appeared in 22 of 33 games averaging five minutes of court time in each.
"It's definitely been a challenge. It's been different. Our team is experienced. We have five seniors starting, so personally, I've been able to learn a lot about the college game."
De Ciman's Rams are ranked eighth in the Midwest Region and face the number nine Missouri Tigers in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday (7:20 CST). A win will mean a showdown with the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals in what would amount to a home game.
"It is all business right now for us," De Ciman said. "We're trying to finish this weekend with two wins and move on to the next round. We're going to look at it one game at a time and just put our best game on the court."
De Ciman is among 29 Canadian players on NCAA tournament teams. Highly-touted NBA prospects like Kelly Olynyk of the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Anthony Bennett of the UNLV Runnin' Rebels are expected to perform well for their teams. De Ciman says he's excited to be among the pool of Canadian talent.
"I'm just happy to be a part of it," he said. "My age group and a few years older, we've been lucky, we're really playing at the right time, starting to get noticed a lot more."