The rush of Duke players that surged to his side was nothing like the rush of emotion that flooded his mind. Danny Ferry threw back his head and yelled:
"I'm in space. I'm in space."
The space Ferry was occupying, appropriately enough, was midway between the places he had been magnificent in Duke's drive to the NCAA championship game. So high now, he had been a hero without getting more than several inches off the floor.
When Ferry turned one way and exchanged high hugs with Mark Alarie, he was facing the end of Reunion Arena in which he scored the go-ahead basket in the 71-67 victory over Kansas.
When he turned to accept David Henderson's embrace, Ferry was in the direction where he took a charge that helped make this delirium possible.
"Big money man," Billy King called to Ferry.
There is some fiction afoot about the Duke players being nearly void of emotion, that they sort of yawn after each success -- no matter how grand -- and flip back to Chaucer.
These Dukies dance, though usually not in the middle of the gym. Still, this was no ordinary victory -- and Ferry was no ordinary hero. A freshman among seniors, content in a supporting role the entire season, he was nearly all that mattered in the finest 22 seconds Duke has experienced in years.
Giddy minutes after the Blue Devils had survived, Ferry was neither quite sure why he was in the game at the time nor exactly what happened.
"Sort of in a daze," he admitted, trying to focus on each of the pivotal moments. Of the followup for Duke's final field goal, he said: "Somebody missed. I got it."
That somebody was Alarie from the left side, perhaps 18 feet away, and Ferry did not immediately grab the ball after the miss. A Kansan, Cedric Hunter, seemed about to control it; Johnny Dawkins flicked it free.
"A crowd . . . two or three people," Ferry said. "I went and got the ball and went up with it."
Ferry saw it as the obvious thing to do.
A losing Jayhawk saw it as an omen.
"When you have a freshman like that who comes up with an offensive rebound like that," center Greg Dreiling said, "you know you have a good chance to win it all.
"They talk about the other freshmen around the country. Maybe he gets overlooked because of Duke's other people."
Some of Duke's other people were not always terrific this once; some of its largest shoulders sagged. That gave Ferry 15 precious minutes of action.
Having been very lucky and very timely on offense, Ferry soon found himself in about the same situation on defense. Ron Kellogg headed his way with a chance to tie.
Kellogg had been 11 for 13 from the field when he bolted around Henderson and glided down the left base line. Anyone but one of Morgan Wootten's special students at DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., might have done something silly.
Such as challenge Kellogg.
Players learn to take charges shortly after they lace on their first pair of sneakers at DeMatha. As Wootten insists, Ferry held his ground -- and his hands aloft in an I-surrender act to influence officials.
Also, the 6-10 Ferry never will be mistaken for a shot blocker. He said the official all but whispered charge before signaling it. Kansas argued Ferry had blocked Kellogg's path; Duke insisted Kellogg had taken a bunch of extra steps before he even got to Ferry.
Anyway, Ferry was a big deal for the second time in 11 seconds. Unfortunately, he also was presented with his first chance to cope with enormous pressure.
Important as it was, the rebound was reflexive; so was the charge. Now Ferry would be at the free-throw line, all alone in front of the world. He either would ice the game, or be iced.
"Nervous, boy," he said. "Really."
"Way not to think," assistant Bob Bender would kid Ferry later as both entered the dressing room.
Kansas controlled the rebound; Kellogg let fly from about 25 feet. The ball barely got to the rim; it bounced to the smallest Blue Devil, Tommy Amaker.
The largest sigh in the place was Ferry's.
"Like it's all a dream now," he told a semicircle of reporters. "A daze."
Ferry figured senior Jay Bilas would get the minutes at the end.
"I thought I'd get in earlier [to give Bilas a breather] and then go out," Ferry said. "It didn't work out that way."
Lots else didn't work out the way Duke had planned. Alarie and Henderson totaled seven for 25 from the field. A reserve point guard for Kansas, Mark Turgeon, was effective against Duke's aggressive defense.
The Jayhawks had a chance to pull away in the last several minutes but couldn't. A couple of their usually reliable players, especially Danny Manning, also were shaky.
Indirectly, Manning helped Duke immensely this season by following his father to Kansas. Had Ed Manning not accepted an assistant's position with new Coach Larry Brown, the sophomore almost assuredly would have attended North Carolina.
Directly, by missing seven of nine field goal tries and playing just 23 foul-plagued minutes, Manning helped Duke to the most number of victories (37) in NCAA history.
And a chance for one more.
Ferry seemed comfortable between seniors Henderson and Bilas at a postgame news conference. He clearly wanted the ball during the sequence that ended with him finally getting it.
With 68 seconds left and the score tied, Calvin Thompson missed a long base-line jumper and Ferry controlled the ball. It was his first flicker in a spotlight he would dominate, the ham.