Skip to main content

The Story Behind the Stories: Technician Chronicles Historic Basketball Seasons

Technician Co-Editor in Chief Jameson Wolf hands out commemorative issues at Talley Student Union.

The four weeks spanning March 12 to April 6, 2024, will live on in the hearts and minds of NC State basketball fans for the rest of their lives. 

Whether it be Kevin Keatts and his players cutting down the nets in Washington, DC after beating archrival UNC for the men’s basketball program’s first ACC title since 1987, Michael O’Connell and DJ Horne knocking down clutch shots, DJ Burns’ elite post play making him a national favorite, Aziaha James shooting the lights out from 3-point land or Wes Moore and the women’s basketball players cutting down nets in Portland, the enduring images and moments of both of the Wolfpack’s hoops squads making it to the Final Fours of the 2024 NCAA Tournaments will endure through the ages. 

In a photo captured by Technician Senior Staff Photographer Hallie Walker, the NC State men's basketball team celebrates after beating Duke to advance to the NCAA Final Four.
In a photo captured by Technician Senior Staff Photographer Hallie Walker, the NC State men’s basketball team celebrates after beating Duke to advance to the NCAA Final Four.

For a group of students entrusted and honored with the task of documenting a euphoric time in school history, those enduring images and memories will include long nights in the newsroom, lines out the door in Talley Student Union, empty newsstands and the opportunity of a lifetime to set up on press row in Phoenix and Cleveland. 

The writers, editors, photographers and designers at Technician, NC State’s student newspaper, spent the aforementioned four weeks planning and creating special issues on tight turnarounds, traveling across the country to cover games and providing the Wolfpack community with physical mementos of this historic run. 

“I don’t even know if I can really wrap my head around that,” said Co-Editor in Chief Jameson Wolf. “Our work is going to be a representation of this really special moment for so many people.”

The Trips of a Lifetime

The evening of April 2, Assistant Sports Editor Noah Teague, a second-year student studying business administration posted a screenshot to his X (formerly Twitter) account that, at first glance on a scroll, might have appeared to be a basic email. 

It was anything but. The email with an NCAA final four logo on its letterhead meant the realization of a dream for Teague and several of his Technician sports teammates: he was going to the Final Four. 

“It was just very surreal,” Teague said. “Growing up, always watching the Final Four, that’s one of those things that was on my bucket list. I wanted to be there one day. So to have the opportunity to not just be there, but to cover the school I go to was just mind blowing. Once I actually got there, it hit 1,000 times more.” 

It was just very surreal.

Teague, along with Sports Editor Colby Trotter, a second-year student studying communication and Senior Staff Photographer Hallie Walker, a fourth-year student studying business administration, spent several days in Phoenix covering what was ultimately the end of the road for the men’s basketball team with a loss to Purdue. 

Technician Assistant Sports Editor Noah Teague, left, and Sports Editor Colby Trotter take in the view at State Farm Stadium in Phoenix.
Technician Assistant Sports Editor Noah Teague, left, and Sports Editor Colby Trotter take in the view at State Farm Stadium in Phoenix.

For the student reporters, being among a veritable who’s who of national media, having a front-row seat to one of the greatest sporting events of the year, and documenting school history was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

“It felt like I was living in a dream the whole time I was there,” Trotter said. “You see every reporter you know there, everyone’s in the same spot. I wanted to soak that all in as much as I could, just being at the Final Four, because you never know if you’ll be back there.”

From left: Technician Assistant Sports Editor Noah Teague, Senior Staff Photographer Hallie Walker and Sports Editor Colby Trotter on the court at State Farm Stadium.
From left: Technician Assistant Sports Editor Noah Teague, Senior Staff Photographer Hallie Walker and Sports Editor Colby Trotter on the court at State Farm Stadium.

Thousands of miles away in Cleveland, Ohio, Assistant Sports Editor Erin Ferrare and Staff Photographer Violet Beesley were basking in their own Final Four experience. 

Ferrare, a second-year student studying Science and Technology in Society, felt similar to Trotter and Teague when she received notification that her credential request to follow the Wolfpack women to Cleveland had been granted by the NCAA.

This is such a big deal to be here.” 

“Getting that email, and then also getting the email of here’s the app, here’s the map, it started to feel real,” Ferrare said. “I didn’t think it was real until I walked through the metal detectors in the Cavaliers’ stadium in Cleveland. It was crazy, because Cleveland was the place to be that weekend. Just being there and peeking at people’s credentials and seeing ESPN, The Athletic, it was insane.

“The real moment where I realized we made it to the Final Four, was when we were able to go on the court. It was very surreal and also just a sweet moment for all of us sports writers and sports media people. This is such a big deal to be here.” 

Technician Assistant Sports Editor Erin Ferrare at the NCAA Women's Final Four in Cleveland.
Technician Assistant Sports Editor Erin Ferrare at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Cleveland.

For Ferrare, adding to the special experience of getting to cover this women’s Final Four was the way the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament served as a referendum on the growth of women’s sports and women’s basketball specifically, a conversation Ferrare was already seeking to drive on NC State’s campus. 

Women’s sports are on the rise globally and nationally in every sport.

“I am so proud that NC State was able to be a part of that conversation,” Ferrare said. “I’ve been writing about women’s viewership and women’s sports since I started here at Technician. I’ve been breaking down how women’s sports are on the rise globally and nationally in every sport. NC State has done so well promoting women’s sports alongside it. It’s just awesome that I got to follow them to the Final Four and be a little part of that story.” 

Lasting Images

If you’re an NC State fan following basketball coverage throughout the 2023-24 season, chances are you’ve seen at least one of Walker’s photos. 

Technician’s well-traveled sports photographer followed the team throughout its postseason run. When the Wolfpack cut down the nets in Washington, DC, after winning the ACC title to secure an automatic bid, Walker had already decided she would be there for the entire journey. Thus, her “I’m going to the final four moment” came in the dying minutes of an Elite Eight victory over Duke in Dallas. 

“All I can think of is that moment with one minute left in the Duke game in the Elite Eight matchup and thinking oh my gosh, we’re going to win the ball game,” Walker said. “We’re going to go to the Final Four. That moment was so surreal.” 

In Phoenix, Walker, who aspires to keep working in sports photography after graduation, got to live out her dream and shoot alongside a slew of national photographers, capturing one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. 

“It was insane,” Walker said. “I never imagined being in that space, especially as a student photojournalist. I look around on the photo row and everyone around me is a professional photographer. The person next to me is with Getty. This person is with the Raleigh News & Observer. So just being able to step into that stadium, it’s crazy.” 

Technician Senior Staff Photographer Hallie Walker sets up on photo row at the NCAA Men's Final Four.
Technician Senior Staff Photographer Hallie Walker sets up on photo row at the NCAA Men’s Final Four.

While the men’s Final Four felt like a culmination for Walker, the women’s edition in Cleveland was a launch point for Beesley. 

A first-year student studying psychology, Beesley had minimal experience shooting sporting events throughout the year and said the Final Four loss to eventual national champion South Carolina was just the second NC State women’s basketball game she captured.

In a photo captured by Technician Staff Photographer Violet Beesley, Saniya Rivers looks for a passing option during the Wolfpack women’s basketball team’s Final Four showdown against South Carolina in Cleveland.

After that experience, however, Beasley expects her sports photography experience to grow fast and furious going forward. 

“It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do,” Beasley said. “I never thought I would be able to do it this soon. It was a great experience.”

Violet Beesley at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Cleveland.

 Walker said her favorite moments to capture throughout the postseason run were those that showed passion and emotion, such as post-game victory celebrations on the court and in the locker room or players celebrating big in-game moments. 

Both Walker and Beesley’s photos will now be immortalized and looked back on as lasting images of a historic time at NC State. 

In a photo captured by Technician Senior Staff Photographer Hallie Walker, NC State’s Ben Middlebrooks celebrates during an NCAA Tournament first round win over Texas Tech in Pittsburgh.

“That has been something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around since I decided to go to Pittsburgh, because I look back on that stuff too,” Walker said. “Before I went to Pittsburgh, photo mentor Ray Black pulled out one of the older editions and we looked at the last Sweet 16 run they had and what that coverage looked like. So to think that next year or 10 years down the line, someone could be doing the exact same thing with my photos, it’s something that I can’t even wrap my head around.” 

Photoshop and a Dream

Simultaneously with the plans made for cross-country travel, once both basketball teams punched their tickets to the Final Four, Technician’s editorial board focused on creating a physical memento of the historic run for the campus community, and the task of turning it around in a few days. 

Wolf said that the staff met Monday morning to start planning the issue’s content, and the editors, writers, designers, and photographers pulled together to produce a special product. 

Technician editors look at a special issue cover.

“It speaks to this group’s commitment and their love for the school,” Wolf said. “I think there was a lot of added stress with this, but what made that manageable and even enjoyable through the stress was that it was a really exciting time. One thing I really appreciate about everyone who’s been working on the papers the past couple of weeks is that they’ve been able to really enjoy this run.”

It speaks to this group’s commitment and their love for the school.

Of course, the most important part of any commemorative issue is the cover. Enter Ellie Bruno, a third-year graphic design student in their second year as Technician’s design editor. 

By now, everyone has seen the famous “Why Not Both” cover that practically flew off newsstands the Thursday before the Final Four showdowns, featuring a photo collage, featuring a half-and-half combo of the men’s and women’s basketball teams celebrating with their regional championship trophies. 

Technician Design Editor Ellie Bruno holds up the initial sketch and their completed cover design for the Final Four commemorative issue.

Bruno quipped that the cover was made “with Photoshop and a dream,” as they took a rough sketch from the editorial board and allowed their design expertise to go to work. 

“I’m super proud,” Bruno said. “It could not have been made without these fantastic photos from our photographers, but it’s amazing to see it be so well received. I’ve done multiple covers in the past, but just the fact that this one has had so much impact on the student body, it’s so rewarding and so overwhelming at the same time to feel so much love from NC State.” 

A Piece of History

Over the years, newspapers have often been called “the first draft of history.” For sports fans, in particular, history is a place to look back on fond memories and special moments. 

In the years to come for NC State fans, Technician’s special Final Four issue will be a memento of the double Final Four run, a physical representation of that history, fronted by Bruno’s brilliant cover design. 

I was able to make an artifact.

“It’s amazing to think that I am part of that history,” Bruno said. “I was able to make an artifact. That’s why I love print media so much, you end up with a physical product. Being able to have a physical copy of history and being able to have this, hang it up on my wall, look at it in 15-20 years and say that I made this is unfathomable. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around. It’s crazy.” 

If the demand and consumption are anything to judge by, many Wolfpack fans will be looking at that piece of history over the days, weeks, months, years, and decades to come. 

Wolf, a fourth-year student studying english, rhetoric, and professional writing, said that on Monday morning after the Elite Eight games, she received hundreds of emails from Wolfpack supporters asking about buying a copy. When Technician’s staff distributed newspapers at Talley Student Union that Thursday, the line stretched all the way to the Tri Towers, and campus newsstands were picked clean within hours. 

“It’s really heartening to see that this print medium is alive and well in a lot of ways,” Wolf said.

Gratitude for a Rare Opportunity

The group of student writers and photographers who traveled to Phoenix and Cleveland represents a mix of those who wish to pursue sports journalism as a career and those who see their future in other areas. 

For those who wish to continue writing about sports or shooting sports after college, this experience was an invaluable building block. 

“It’s going to help me a lot,” Trotter said. “Not many people get to go to the Final Four. So going forward, having that experience on my resume is huge.”

For all of the students, however, it’s yet another example of the incredible, rare experiences Student Media and Technician have been able to provide NC State students over the past 100-plus years. 

After all, the group of former student journalists who can say they covered two Final Four runs in the same year is small. 

“I’m very grateful,” Ferrare said. “I didn’t do any sports writing in high school and I don’t really want to go into sports writing. I just love sports. So being able to come here with no experience at all and grow into being the assistant sports editor and then being trusted enough to go and write the Final Four in Cleveland, I feel a lot of respect, and I feel very welcomed for that here at Technician.” 

This post was originally published in DASA.