- Associated Press - Friday, March 16, 2012

DAYTON, OHIO (AP) - Christian Laettner’s incredible shot. Jim Valvano’s joyous dash. Everybody has a favorite NCAA tournament memory.

For some still-amazed students at the University of Dayton, it will be the night they spent watching hoops and eating hot dogs with the president of the United States.

Three volleyball players got to sit in the front row with President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron for the tournament’s opening game Tuesday night. They chatted about sports and school, ate hot dogs and posed for photos.

Then, they got to tell family and friends _ in awe-struck voice _ what they’d just experienced.

The president. The prime minister. Really!

“It’s hard to believe it happened,” said Samantha Selsky, a junior from California who sat four seats from Obama. “Looking back on it, I’m trying to remember what was going through my head. It’s hard to remember. It seemed so fast _ the fastest three hours ever.”

So surreal, and such a surprise. None of them expected to be front and center with the nation’s top basketball fan for the opening game of the NCAA tournament Tuesday night at the UD Arena.

The school sent an email to some of its top students, asking if they wanted to sit in the same section with Obama for the game. Three volleyball players _ Selsky, junior Rachel Krabacher and sophomore Shayne Brown _ accepted the invitation.

The White House staff would decide where everyone sat.

It was sunny and 75 degrees when they walked into the arena, passed through metal detectors set up at each entrance and were handed their tickets.

Section 101. Row A.

The president’s row.

“They called us over and said, `You three need to understand you’ll be sitting in the same row as the president,’” Brown said. “We got pretty excited at that point.”

Not just in his row. A couple seats away, close enough to talk to him throughout the game.

“We were kind of like being little girls,” Selsky said. “We couldn’t believe this was happening. What were we going to say? What do we call him? We were asking the Secret Service what we do. When he comes out here, can we use our phones? How do we refer to him? So they were kind of laughing at us because they knew we were kind of star-struck.”

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