BALTIMORE, Md. — Emmitsburg’s finest is ready to show the world what it can do.
"Our guys are locked in. They want to win. They want to compete. They want to show well on the national stage," said Mount St. Mary's University Head Men's Basketball Coach Dan Engelstad.
The Mountaineers are a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They play No. 16 Texas Southern Thursday at 5:10 p.m. inside Indiana University’s Assembly Hall. It's the first game of the 'first four' of the big dance. There is plenty on the line for the Northeast Conference champions.
"They are tough. They are resilient. They have battled through a ton, not just this season. Our upperclassmen have battled through a ton these last couple years to get our program to this point," said Engelstad about his team. "They are not just good young me, they are elite young men."
Their leader is Baltimore’s Damian Chong Qui. The 5-foot-8 junior point guard out of McDonogh School was a walk-on three years ago after receiving zero scholarship offers. Now he commands his team on and off the floor.
"A big part of my game is confidence, mentally," he said. "I honestly think 80 percent of basketball is mental."
What Damian has been through mentally off the court has prepared him for this very moment.
"I think the adversity made me who I am."
When Damian was 4 years old his mother, Lisa Renee Brown, was murdered. When he was 12 his father, Edward Chong Qui, was shot in the back which left him paralyzed from the waist down. The two have been inseparable ever since.
"That’s my best friend. My father’s not even like my father, honestly, he’s my brother," said Damian. "He treats me like a brother. We talk about anything. Talk about everything."
"I think every part of the journey has prepared him for right now," said Edward. "I’m glad it happened the way it did because it made us stronger, made our bond stronger and made me appreciate life more.
"He has seen what can happen in these streets and he has seen what can happen when you apply yourself and have a goal to achieve and you work towards it."
It is a father-son bond that is truly unbreakable.
"There’s not really anybody in my life that I’m closer with," said Damian. "I love my father to death. I know he loves me. My father holds me down. He’s been there through everything."
And he’ll be there in Indy on Thursday night with this message for Damian:
"I want you to go out there and show the world what a kid from Baltimore can do when he’s dedicated and puts the hard work in. Have fun and I love you," said Edward.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions Thursday’s game will be the first time this season Edward gets to see Damian play in person. Damian expects his dad to be emotional when the ball is tipped. He is just looking forward to finally playing in front of him again.