DECATUR — Sometimes nature calls at the most inopportune times.
Millikin assistant basketball coach Kramer Soderberg was cheering on his father, Brad Soderberg, an assistant basketball coach at Virginia, during the team's Elite 8 battle against Purdue in Louisville, Ky., on Sunday.
After ending regulation tied 70-70, the overtime period was winding down when Kramer's 4-year-old son Krayton tapped him on the arm.
"There was about 45 seconds left and the game was still in the balance and he said ‘Dad, I have to go to the bathroom.’ I saw that look in his eyes that if you don’t take me something bad is going to happen," Kramer said. "Luckily a timeout was called and I put him on my shoulders and did a 40-yard dash up about 200 flights of stairs and we got back in time to see the end."
Virginia won 80-75 to advance to the Final Four. Watching his son experience the victory brought back memories for Kramer of 2000, when his father was an assistant coach at Wisconsin and the Badgers made the Final Four.
"It’s neat for me because my experience in sixth grade when the Badgers went to the Final Four are being re-lived through my son," Kramer said. "I enjoyed watching my son more than watching the game. He was in basketball ball heaven with his grandpa as a coach.
"My whole life is coming full circle and I see the excitement he is going through and it is very similar to the excitement that I remember having."
Kramer will be making the trip to Minneapolis this weekend to see his father in the Final Four again.
"It was pretty special for our family — it’s a once in a lifetime thing and we have been able to do it twice," he said.
Virginia's success comes one season after becoming the first No. 1-seeded team to lose to a No. 16-seed in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
"What a historic loss it was and it was unfortunate, too, with such a historic regular season where they won the ACC outright and then won the conference tournament," Kramer said. "It was a special team but that’s what makes basketball special. In any game, any team can beat anybody. It was historically bad last year and now it's historically good."
Anyone knowing Kramer's connection to Virginia basketball asked him about the loss.
"It was hard to listen to thousands of people ask you, ‘What happened?’ Talking with my dad, of course they were down, but I think they all took lessons from it and made them want to pursue it harder," he said. "Now they are where they are at and hopefully they can win two more games and cap it off."
Being the child of a coach had Kramer living and breathing basketball.
"My entire life my father has been a college basketball coach and I grew up in the gym and I’ve heard a lot of coaches say that being a coach’s kid, it can go to one extreme or the other," Kramer said. "You are either really going to love it or run away from it. I just fell in love with it and knew I wanted to be a coach."
Kramer played basketball at St. Charles West High School in Missouri and was named the St. Louis Post Dispatch's 2008 Player of the Year. After two years at the University of Miami-Ohio, Kramer transferred to Lindenwood University to play for his father.
"It was a dream to play and coach together, and so I transferred home to St. Charles and played for him at Lindenwood," Kramer said. "When you think about what you have learned and the time I have spent in his programs, that’s what I know about the most is his system."
With his father's system as his base, being an assistant for Millikin head coach Mark Scherer is an important learning opportunity for Kramer to master different offensive and defensive strategies.
"I’m excited to work under Coach Scherer and it has been beneficial as a young coach in my learning new styles," Kramer said. "I feel like I’m most experienced in the pack-line defense and motion offense, and learning from Coach Scherer, I am more experienced in pressure defense up and on the line and running a high-low motion."
The Big Blue finished 11-13 and 5-11 in the CCIW last season with a roster that featured 11 freshmen.
"We were pleased where we were with such a young squad and playing so many freshmen," Kramer said. "With Coach Scherer, we are making tremendous progress and changing the culture that was down and out for a little while. Once our younger guys gain that experience they will be ready to compete for a CCIW championship."