The NCAA has two new basketball champions, with the Stanford women’s team beating Arizona on Sunday and the Baylor men’s team beating Gonzaga on Monday. Players from both victorious teams, such as Anna Wilson and Jared Butler, have spoken openly about their Christian faith and praised Jesus in post-game interviews.
Stanford’s Anna Wilson: “Jesus You Always Come Through”
In a thrilling finish Sunday, the Stanford Cardinal women’s team defeated the Arizona Wildcats 54-53, clinching the school’s first championship since 1992. Stanford defensive standout Anna Wilson, who lists Colossians 3:23 in her Twitter bio, tweeted before tipoff: “You can do all things! Jesus you always come through.”
Wilson, a fifth-year senior, has been vocal about her faith. Last March, in a first-person piece for ESPN, she described the pain of losing her father when she was 12 and dealing with a severe concussion as a college freshman. She emphasized that faith gives her life purpose.
“When things aren’t going my way and it’s tough on the court,” Wilson wrote, “I always whisper, ‘He must increase, I must decrease.’ That’s John 3:30. … For me, that means minimizing myself—to put others first, and Jesus first, is more important than anything else. My faith has helped me with my definition of success. It’s definitely not all about me.”
By speaking about her faith, Wilson is following in the footsteps of her older brother, NFL star quarterback Russell Wilson. After watching his sister hoist the championship trophy Sunday, Russell tweeted out love for Anna, writing, “You’ve earned it all through hard work, leadership, prayer, & immeasurable Faith.”
Baylor Men: A Culture of J.O.Y.
Monday night’s anticipated matchup of two number-one men’s seeds turned into a rout by Baylor. The Bears beat previously undefeated Gonzaga 86-70 to claim the first men’s basketball championship in school history.
Baylor, a private Christian university in Waco, Texas, had a scandal-plagued team back in 2003, when current head coach Scott Drew took the reins. After a post-game prayer Monday night, Drew told an interviewer what makes his team special. “We play with a culture of J.O.Y.,” he said. “That’s Jesus, Others, then Yourself.”
Later, Drew said the locker room was filled with joy, “but our joy is Jesus, Others, Yourself. It’s so tough to put other people in front of you, and teams that do that are obviously more successful.”
Baylor guard Jared Butler, named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, led the Bears with 22 points. When asked about his accomplishments after Monday’s victory, he said, “I’m not trying to preach a prosperity gospel, but our Lord and Savior, I say it all the time: He gets us through everything. Jesus Christ, man, he’s the truth. He was with us tonight, he was with us all season, he’s with us wherever we go. He just sustained us. He brought us together.”
Of Baylor’s J.O.Y. mindset, Butler says he’s grateful to play at a school where Jesus permeates the entire culture. The athlete, who teaches Sunday school at a local church in his free time, also says it’s a blessing to share the joy of Jesus and the Gospel message with children.