GREENSBORO, N.C. — As their dream season came to an end, it became clearer that Kennesaw State has had a profound effect on its players.

This was – and will be going forward – about more than just basketball.

Following what could have been a heartbreaking 72-67 loss to Xavier in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, seniors Alex Peterson and Spencer Rodgers were asked to reflect on their time at the school.

Peterson: “For me I think that Kennesaw State has been like a very much like a pillar in my life. I built friendships and relationships here with my teammates and the coaching staff that I feel like will last forever. And I think, you know, when I came in, I had a lot more growing to do, not just as a player, but as a man in general. I feel like Kennesaw State helped me grow up and become the person I needed to be to tackle life outside of basketball or just within basketball.

Rodgers: “Kennesaw State has been everything for me. I came there three years ago. When I came in, I was a quiet guy. Had trouble building a relationship with these guys, but over the years we’ve just grown so close. I mean, they just mean everything to me. Everybody on the team is a brother to me. I love the practices. I love going to eat in the cafeteria. It’s just all those things that just accumulate, and that just mean so much to me. All these guys, I love them. I love them for life. Coaches, everybody, managers. They just mean everything to me.”

More than just basketball.

The connection goes deeper than two seniors, both transfers, reflecting on their decisions to play at Kennesaw State.

Terrell Burden called himself “blessed” to be at Kennesaw State. Chris Youngblood called this season his favorite and that he will never forget his “brothers.”

Coach Amir Abdur-Rahim was brought to tears – tears of joy – when asked following the loss about the program he has built in only four seasons. Was this trip to the NCAA Tournament, after going 1-28 in his first season, the start of something big? No, the start of something big was four years ago, he said. Coaches, players and staff have committed to the same vision. These are the results – on and off the court.

Asked if the failure to hold a 13-point second-half lead made Friday’s loss sting a little more, Abdur-Rahim called the near-upset of favored Xavier a life lesson.

“When you put your heart and soul into something, there’s going to be disappointment here and there, but like I said before, we teach life through the game,” Abdur-Rahim said. “For us, it’s not what happens, but how we respond. This is not going to be a one-off thing for us.

“Like Terrell said, we plan to be here year in and year out. Where somebody might say it stings, I see growth. I see to get better not only as a coach, but an opportunity to help my players grow.”

The future does appear bright for Kennesaw State on the court as well. They are in the national spotlight now. They’ve caught the attention of the nation on their journey to the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament. They are an established program.

Former NBA player Kenny Smith, in his NCAA Tournament postgame analysis, said of Abdur-Rahim that he is “built to build.”

Sometimes you have to taste defeat to enjoy success.

“Like I told these guys in the locker room, man, I’m not going to sit up here and let them feel sorry for themselves because we said it all year,” Abdur-Rahim said. “We’re not going to let what people on the outside of our circle say success may be. We’re not going to let anybody define success for us. These guys are successful. They’re winners because they decided to love one another and commit to a common goal. So, man, I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”