- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2011

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS (AP) - Texas A&M coach Gary Blair settled in behind the podium and began fiddling with his smartphone.

Soon the smooth voice of Ray Charles was wafting through the room crooning “Georgia on My Mind.”

Texas A&M wants another shot at Baylor, but for that chance Blair and the Aggies must first take care of Georgia in Sunday’s Dallas Regional semifinal.

Baylor plays Wisconsin-Green Bay in the other game in Dallas.


“We are talking about Georgia this week,” Blair said as Charles’ 1960 rendition of that “old sweet song” finished playing. “There will not be another word mentioned about Baylor when we talk to our team. The fans talk about it, the media has to talk about it … to sell tickets we need to talk about it, but as coaches we cannot afford that luxury.”

The Aggies rolled their eyes and laughed when asked about Blair’s musical offerings this week. That doesn’t mean they don’t understand the point he’s trying to make.

“It’s just like the Big 12 tournament where we had to beat two teams to get to Baylor, but it ended up happening,” senior Maryann Baker said. “You can see the future of what you’re trying to achieve and it just makes you that much more focused on the task at hand.”

The Aggies are back in the NCAA round of 16 for the fourth time in school history and the first since 2009 with a goal of earning their first-ever trip to the Final Four. No. 2 seed Texas A&M (29-5) has just five losses this season and three of them have come against the No. 1 seeded Lady Bears. The most recent meeting in the Big 12 tournament championship ended with a 61-58 Baylor win after the Aggies led 12-0.

But first, Georgia, a team the Aggies have never met before.

Blair loves a good story and regales anyone in his path with his colorful tales. He shared one this week that veered away from basketball, but stayed on the subject of Georgia.

He told of a 10-year-old Aggie fan with cancer who he has been corresponding with for the last month. He held up a picture the little girl had sent, posing in front of a wall that displayed a team photo Blair had given her.

The girl, bald from chemotherapy but smiling broadly, also included a note.

“Thank you for the team picture,” she wrote. “Gig’ em.”

The girl, who lives in Georgia but whose parents attended Texas A&M, is reason Georgia has been on Blair’s mind long before he was game planning for the Lady Bulldogs.

“It’s sort of apropos that we would be playing Georgia,” Blair said. “It’s pretty neat. Sometimes things work out.”

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