My life completely changed 17 years ago.
I was in fourth grade. My classmates and I were sitting at our desks eagerly awaiting the start of gym class. A friend of mine, Josh Manganella, was wearing a pair of sweat pants.
The pants - with a husky logo and the letters C-O-N-N-E-C-T-I-C-U-T running down the side - had me awestruck. I started asking questions about them. I soon found out that a local girl, Hollidaysburg's Pam Webber, played for UConn.
Very interested, I began watching whatever UConn games were made available to me on CBS. I caught a men's game one Saturday afternoon and watched as All-American Donyell Marshall and a super freshman, Ray Allen, led the Huskies. I was hooked for life.
The women captured the school's first-ever national championship in 1995 - capping off a perfect 35-0 season with a 70-64 victory over Tennessee. Webber was a senior on that team, and I thought that was so cool that a local girl had won a national title.
We - I like to put myself as part of the team, as any true fan would - had a couple of near misses at a trip to the Final Four [1990, 1994, 1995, 1998] with the men before finally breaking through in 1999.
I was at a friend's birthday party the day of the Final Four game against Ohio State (a team I'd seen Penn State upset in Happy Valley just a few short weeks earlier). Thank God, there was a TV in the Claysburg Senior Center because I was able to watch the game.
I had to excuse myself from the party when we clinched our ticket to the title game so I could cry alone in my car.
We defeated Duke, 77-74, for our first men's national championship two nights later, and I believe all of Blue Knob could hear me screaming as I ran outside in my bare feet in the snow that night before falling face-first into the whiteness and weeping like a baby.
In 2000, the women won their second title and first of four in five seasons.
The men and women's squads, both picked as preseason favorites in 2004, completed the ultimate double and made Storrs, Conn., the college basketball capital of the world by both winning the national title.
I've had my picture taken with women's coach Geno Auriemma, gotten autographs from the entire 2001-2002 squad, spoken in person for about four minutes to perhaps the greastest women's player ever, Diana Taurasi, been booed by fans in Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown and Villanova - making all those trips by myself.
One of the greatest stories is the day my son, Elias, was born - Dec. 8, 2005. The UConn men were to play UMass at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
On that day, the game was the last thing on my mind. However, when he was born at 6:15 that night and I remembered at 7:05 that the game was on, I knew my little man had wanted to watch the game with his daddy.
I finally attended my first game in Connecticut on Jan. 27, 2007; the men lost to Providence and the women beat Notre Dame. I was so overcome with emotion that I had finally made it there. I was finally able to be among my people.
As the college basketball season officially got under way Saturday with the first day of practices, I look forward to this year - a year filled with high expectations for both the men and the women. I look to complete the double sweep again just as we did in 2004.
I look forward to taking my son, now almost 3, to his first UConn game and watching him get lost in the emotion of the Huskies and the college game.
For now, though, I can't help but reflect on all the games I've watched and all the tears of joy I've shed over a win and the tears of frustration and pain during the losses.
Most of all, I can't help but think: This all started with a pair of pants.
Thank you, Josh.
Nate Ritchey is a part-time copy editor and sports writer at the Mirror.