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North Texas Ready For Final Four, Homecoming For UK Player

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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ARLINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS) - The eyes of college basketball lovers will be on North Texas this weekend as the NCAA brings its Final Four Tournament to AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Preparations are underway across the region, including Dallas.

Organizers say up to 100,000 visitors may show up—and millions more Americans will be glued to CBS to watch college basketball showcase its finest teams. And for one University of Kentucky player, it’ll be a high-octane homecoming.

Just a year ago, Julius Randle was leading the Prestonwood Christian Academy to its third state title in four years. Now he comes to town with a shot at college basketball’s biggest prize. Chris Lovell, now head basketball coach, was an assistant coach there when Randle played.

NDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 30:  Julius Randle #30 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates after defeating the Michigan Wolverines 75 to 72 in the midwest regional final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 30: Julius Randle #30 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates after defeating the Michigan Wolverines 75 to 72 in the midwest regional final of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

“Julius is a hard worker, he works hard at everything, he’s a good student in the classroom and he’s a gym rat here in the gym,” according to Lovell.

He adds the 6′-9″ swingman is a superb ball-handler and dead-eye shot, but he’s well-rounded beyond roundball. “How he’s matured brings great satisfaction to me as a coach,” says Lovell, “and It brings me a lot of joy to watch him play and use the talents and gifts that God’s given him.”

In Arlington, AT&T Stadium could be seen already putting out the welcome mat for the Final Four Schools–a cute trick considering the teams were finalized less than 24 hours ago.  Seating for 80,000 is planned for Saturday’s and Monday’s games.

The NCAA itself has already set up shop in the Omni Dallas Hotel; and planning in Big-D has been underway for years. Beginning Friday the Convention Center will host Bracket Town, 350-thousand square feet of interactive and family-friendly activities, and a chance to get autographs from some legendary coaches and players. There’s a fee to get in, but some big name outdoor concerts will be free.

Organizers say DART is the best way to get to hear and view Bruce Springsteen, Tim McGraw, and others performing this weekend at the old Reunion Arena site. Both the concerts and Bracket Town are within walking distance of DART stops. While DART is laying on extra trains and extending hours, spokesman Mark Ball cautions, “Please come early, bring your patience with you because you’re going to be on board our buses and trains with people who maybe don’t typically use DART.”

DART trains and buses are not free, and DART is not providing direct transportation to the games themselves. But fans can take mass transit from both Dallas and Fort Worth via the Trinity Railway Express.

Tony Fay represents the group planning the Final Four weekend. “To take train service basically out to Center Port Station in Arlington and there will be buses from there. So, there’ll be a way for you to take mass transit to the stadium from downtown.”

Click here for more information on the NCAA’s Bracket Town.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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