Even before the buzzer sounded, Andy Walsh had charted his course.
He stood courtside behind Will Privette's wheelchair, waiting for the final seconds of N.C. State's upset of No. 1 Duke to tick away.
It turned out to be a ride Privette will never forget.
Not storming the court with his fellow students was never an option for Privette, a 22-year-old senior who was born without a tibia and with other leg deformities. The medical condition has contained him to a wheelchair for most of his life after he doctors amputated his right leg above the knee when Privette was only 6.
Three years ago, when the Wolfpack knocked off the rival Blue Devils in Raleigh, Privette had been part of the celebration, watching from the corner of the floor while chaos broke loose around him.
Now, in his final year at N.C. State, he wasn't about to be left behind again.
"There was no way I was missing it," Privette says.
Walsh, N.C. State's student body president, had met with arena officials minutes earlier, planning for a celebration that was an instant hit on YouTube.
They had instructed him that if students were to rush the court, they were to pour onto the floor through marked openings, allowing officials and other personnel working the game a path to get off the court safely.
They also passed on one final message to Walsh, which he was to convey to students before bedlam ensued.
"If a student falls in front of you," Walsh told students in the final minutes of N.C. State's stunning win over its previously undefeated in-state rivals, "pick them up as soon as you possibly can."
As the clock started to wind down, Walsh used one of his hands to propel Privette's wheelchair and the other to protect one of the most recognizable faces in the N.C. State student section.
Privette, who also works as a statistician for the Wolfpack baseball team, never missed a game. So when Walsh had asked him if he wanted him to push him to center court once the upset was complete, Privette had gladly accepted.
"For him to say he even wanted to (rush the floor), I just figured I would help him out and that I could keep him a little more protected him just going out there by himself," Walsh told ThePostGame.com Sunday.
"But I think that's the best part of the story – he's a true fan and he's never been the type of a person to let his disability inhibit what he does every day."
The safest route, Walsh figured, was a straight line. Walsh thought had he run down the side of the court or if he didn't run at full speed, the chances were greater something could happen to Privette.
So starting from the corner of the baseline, Walsh started to run.
Privette started to yell.
"WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" Privette screamed at the top of his lungs.
"Obviously, I was right in the thick of things," Privette told ThePostGame.com in a phone interview Sunday, just more than 24 hours after video of him being knocked from his wheelchair went viral.
"As soon as I got (to center court), it was like a tidal wave came and swept me away."
What happened during the next 5-10 seconds seemed like an eternity.
After Walsh and Privette reached center court, the rest of the N.C. State student section arrived en masse, covering the PNC floor.
Walsh said that only about two seconds passed before the court was covered, leaving himself and Privette no room to move.
As Privette started to celebrate, he remembers seeing a blur of white coming toward him. Privette believes he was actually knocked to the floor by freshman guard Rodney Purvis, who was pushed backward as more students arrived on the scene.
Suddenly, Privette's wheelchair disappeared from sight.
"Let the party begin in Raleigh," ESPN announcer Dan Shulman said.
"Oh, watch the guy in the wheelchair," analyst Dick Vitale replied. "We've got a wheelchair out there – unbelievable.
"Oh, my heart goes out to him. I hope he's OK."
Before Privette knew it, his wheelchair was tipping over, knocking his glasses off his face and his iPhone 5 out of his hand.
Privette scrambled to grab his phone, which he had been using to capture the celebration on video. But with his phone or his wheelchair nowhere in sight, Privette says he began to try and protect himself.
Disoriented, Privette says only a few seconds felt much longer as students jumped up and down with Wolfpack players, unaware that Privette had been knocked to the floor.
Walsh was among the first to try and get to Privette.
"There's just so much energy and people around you," Walsh said. "It's so mad. Going to the PNC (Saturday) morning, I definitely didn't expect this to happen."
Privette, however, had considered the possibilities.
Hours before the game, Privette knew what was at stake and that even with Duke's unblemished record, N.C. State had a shot at pulling off the upset.
"It's Game Day in the ACC," Privette wrote on his Facebook page before leaving for the arena Saturday. "Ready for the Duke-(N.C) State basketball game. Ready to rush that court."
As time ticked away and the Wolfpack lead started to grow, Privette, who sits on a small platform behind the basket in the front row of the student section, prepared himself.
After meeting with PNC Center officials, Walsh made his way to Privette, asking if he wanted to be among those to rush the court and warning him of the safety concerns.
"This isn't my first rodeo," Privette told him.
Minutes later, everything was breaking loose around him.
That's when C.J. Leslie -- who led N.C. State with 25 points in the 84-76 victory -- came to the rescue.
The 6-9 forward begged everyone to back up, clearing space for Privette. Leslie then scooped the 110-pound Privette up off the floor, cradling him like a baby.
Before he knew it Privette had gone from fearing for his well being to being held by Leslie, celebrating the biggest win Privette has witnessed in person.
Once Leslie realized Privette was OK, the two started to celebrate before Leslie returned his fellow student to his wheelchair and cleared enough room to allow Walsh to escort Privette off the floor.
"Once I was in his arms, I stopped worrying about my phone, I stopped worrying abut everything," said Privette, who called rushing the floor the dumbest thing he's ever done in college. "I was going crazy -- I was loving it."
(Privette first met Leslie on the player's recruiting visit to the N.C. State as shown in the photo to the left.)
Outside of the crack his iPhone sustained, Privette is no worse for the wear.
He'd do it all over if he had the chance, calling Saturday's win the biggest he can remember and one that N.C. students will remember for years to come.
Although he had seen Leslie around campus and around Raleigh prior to Saturday's encounter, he believes the two now have a stronger bond.
Yet, for all of Leslie's efforts to propel the Wolfpack to the memorable win, it is Privette who finds himself enjoying instant celebrity status.
Walsh said he's happy for the attention that has found its way to Privette, who has never allowed his disability to stand in the way of being a regular college student. Walsh said he considers Privette among the basketball team's most loyal supporters, making the attention that has come the college senior's way even more special.
And yet Walsh, who helped rush Privette into the fray and then out of it, hopes that it's the last time he and his fellow students make news for a post-game celebration.
At least during the regular season.
"It was definitely quite the experience -- it was definitely crazy," Walsh said. "We're definitely going to be there to back (the team) the rest of the way, but hopefully, we won't have a court rush for a while.
"We'll save those for the March time frame if we get there."
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