PORTLAND, Ore. -- Sometimes, behind the scenes in an empty gym, late at night and far away from anyone who can see, college basketball takes on a life that can't be reduced to names or numbers.
On Saturday in his hometown of Portland, Ore., Paul McCoy turned that hidden side of college basketball into a very public triumph in front of some of the very people that gave his career its first life.
By now, McCoy's story has been well documented. He transferred from SMU to Saint Mary's for the 201-11 season, and sat out the required year due to NCAA transfer rules.
Before he got a chance to play the 2011-12 season, the same knee injury that had hindered him at SMU happened again. A torn anterior cruciate ligament cost him another season.
Until Saturday, he'd spent the 2012-13 season rehabbing the knee, still holding the hope that he would don a Saint Mary's uniform and see game action.
Saturday was that moment for McCoy.
The Portland native checked in with 3:07 remaining. He scooted to the scorer's table, headed onto the court, and joined the team that has seen all the work, all the sweat and all the effort.
"It was amazing. I got a lot of love from my family and my fans that are here in Portland," McCoy said. "It was a great feeling to finally take my warm-up off and have a jersey on on the court."
The cheers came from behind the Saint Mary's bench, and not just from McCoy's friends and family. Seemingly every Gael fan in attendance knew what was happening, creating a moment that won't soon be forgotten.
"I'm happy. Our whole team is," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "We've seen what he's gone through. Who goes through three ACL (injuries)? We've seen him in practice and he was starting to get better. It was great to be able to get him his first minutes in front of his mom, his uncle and his fans. It was pretty special."
And, in case anyone wondered what kind of player McCoy is, he didn't take a shot in his three-plus minutes on the court. Instead, he picked up an assist and found open teammates each time he had the ball.
McCoy has played the leadership role for plenty long, always staying a constant voice on a team with tremendous chemistry.
But to be able to finally put that into practice meant something even more.
"If you really want something, keep trying," McCoy said. "Yes, you'll have setbacks. Most people fail because a setback would stop them. I had plenty of setbacks in these three years of rehabbing. I just kept fighting and kept fighting and knowing what I wanted to do. I wanted to play basketball. I wanted to help this team on the court."