Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem congratulates South Carolina coach Frank Martin

Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem played at the University of Florida, but that didn’t stop him from celebrating on Sunday when No. 7 seed South Carolina rallied from a 10-point deficit to upset No. 2 seed Duke, 88-81, in a second-round NCAA Tournament game at at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.

South Carolina’s victory on Sunday marked the first time the Gamecocks have advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 44 years.

Haslem won two state championships playing for Martin at Miami (Fla.) Senior High School in 1997 and 1998.

Getty Images. South Carolina coach Frank Martin

South Carolina coach Frank Martin rants on Confederate flag protesters

GREENVILLE, S.C. — A small group of protesters made sure that almost every single fan who came to Sunday’s second-round NCAA tournament games had to walk past a large Confederate flag, which was planted in the parking garage next to the arena and waved in the winds all day and night.

Everyone attending these games understood how unfortunate the symbolism looked; the reason Greenville is hosting these games at all is because the Confederate flag no longer flies at the South Carolina statehouse. While it flew, the NCAA banned its championships from taking place on South Carolina soil.

University of South Carolina coach Frank Martin understood exactly what the flag represents, and the negative storyline it created on a day that should have been about two basketball games.

He addressed it, coupled with a passionate plea, in his postgame news conference after his seventh-seeded Gamecocks upset Duke, 88-81, to earn a trip to the program’s first-ever Sweet 16.

"It's unfortunate, but it's America,” Martin said. “You think we all agree on everything? Our state is united. Our state believes in peace and harmony. That's why this event is being held in our state right now. Our state is  progressive. Our state has incredible people that's about moving forward.

"But it's America. We have freedoms. People have freedoms to do whatever they want to do with themselves and their property. It is what it is.

“There are things out there that I don't like. But I can't force people to do what I want them to do. All I know is this unbelievable university and state has taken in a son of Cuban immigrants that's married to a Jamaican woman, has mixed kids, and they've treated me like I'm one of their own from Day 1.

"I wouldn't want to coach in any other state or with any other group of people, for any other bosses than the ones I've got. Our alums, our community is a beautiful, beautiful place. It's a united state. Unfortunately, things like that happen but we live in the United States of America — and we don't all agree on things."

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