CROWN POINT | Crown Point High School junior Jack Vinovich bragged a strong claim to fame while watching the NCAA tournament final.
His relative, Spike Albrecht, a Crown Point High School graduate, plays for the University of Michigan.
The Michigan Wolverines were playing the Louisville Cardinals on Monday for the NCAA championship held in Atlanta, Ga.
"He's a really nice guy. I've even played a pickup game with him," Vinovich said.
Vinovich, 17, was one of a table of nine high school students at Buffalo Wild Wings Monday cheering wildly for their hometown hero.
"Spike's open," one of the young men at the table yelled at the big screen TV.
Not everyone at the Vinovich table was cheering for Michigan.
"I'm hoping Louisville wins. I want to go against the crowd," Tyler Downing, 17, of Crown Point, said.
Area connections to the Michigan team also were found at another table filled with Crown Point High School students who knew either Albrecht or Glenn Robinson III, a Lake Central High School graduate.
Chesterton's Mitch McGary, Albrecht and Robinson are all freshman on the Michigan team.
Steven Smead, a Crown Point High School junior, said Albrecht lives across the street from him.
"We're all rooting for Michigan because of him. He's a good kid," Smead said.
Spike Albrecht had the time of his life in the first half for Michigan in the NCAA title game.
With point guard Trey Burke on the bench in early foul trouble, Albrecht made all four of his 3-point shots in the half against Louisville. Michigan had a 38-37 lead at halftime, thanks to Albrecht's 17 points.
Not bad for a freshman who was averaging 1.8 points per game and whose main job was to relieve some of the ball-handling pressure from Burke.
After his second 3-pointer of the game gave Michigan a 17-11 lead, Albrecht was hooting and hollering a bit when he came back downcourt.
Burke — the AP Player of the Year — picked up his second foul with 11:09 left in the first half. Albrecht responded with a driving floater, a shot Michigan fans have seen Burke pull off plenty of times.
Then Albrecht went to the floor for a loose ball and somehow threw it some 20 feet ahead to a teammate. The transition chance led to a 3-pointer by Nik Stauskas.
When Louisville called a timeout, Burke ran quickly over to his backup point guard and gave the 5-foot-11 Albrecht a chest bump while the Wolverines returned to their bench.
Albrecht's previous season high was seven points. His season high for minutes was 15 — and he played 16 in the first half Monday.
Chris Reed, another Crown Point High School junior, said he had gone to Lake Central during Robinson's senior year.
"Glenn is quiet and a hard worker on the court. He's always trying to better himself," Reed said.
At another table, more Albrecht connections were found.
"We played Little League together... He was the best in the league," recalled Zach O'Connor, 19, of Crown Point.
Jason Ruff, of Hobart, who sat at the same table of seven friends, disagreed with O'Conner.
"All the way Louisville ... They were good all year. I hate Michigan with a passion," Ruff said.
Thomas Korocy, who sat in the bar side of the restaurant, drank a beer while quietly rooting for Louisville.
"I've been a fan for a long time, since 1993," Korocy said.
Korocy, a Crown Point resident, predicted the game would be a close one.
"It will be down to the wire. The stats on both teams are similar," Korocy said.
Tanya Tallos and Scott Mech, both of Winfield, left before the game started because they wanted to watch it at home.
Both were rooting for Michigan to win.
"It will be a close game," Tallos predicted. - The Associated Press contributed to this story