DURHAM, NC --When blue-chip college sports rivals clash, demand for game tickets is high. That's why most loyal Duke or UNC fans watch their hardwood contests on TV or online.
But Melanie Day flew to Durham from Utah with a smile, because there's a pair of tickets waiting for her at Cameron Indoor Stadium's will call window - thanks to Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"I feel so lucky that Coach K thought about me for a minute," Day said.
Melanie has stage 4 breast cancer.
"I have embraced it," she said on Sunday. "Knowing the cards I've been dealt and knowing that whatever time I have left, I want to live it to the fullest."
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Coach K's had serious health challenges as well. That's one reason Melanie's grateful that he's granted the number one wish on her bucket list. She's played basketball for UCLA and BYU, and has been a loyal Duke fan since junior high school. So, scoring tickets for Thursday is a big win for Melanie.
"The biggest game of the year to me, and most basketball fans. So I've watched that game. If I don't watch any other game, that's the game I want to watch. I wrote my bucket list. Never did I ever think that I would be going to this game!"
Her coach at BYU wrote Coach K a letter requesting a pair of tickets to the game. It was a long shot, but Duke granted his appeal. Then he invited Melanie into her old team's locker room where her husband and the current BYU players watched her joyful reaction to the news.
"For them to take the time to write a letter, to reach out to Coach K on behalf of me? I played there, I guess, 14 years ago," she said.
She's a big fan, but with the exception of television coverage, she's never seen all the Duke fans camped out in K-ville waiting for their tickets. Thursday's matchup won't be her first time inside Cameron. She's been there before, wearing a UCLA uniform.
"That was my favorite experience as a college player, playing at Cameron Indoor."
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Not surprisingly, her admiration for Coach K is stronger than ever now that he's come through with her bucket list wish.
"Something that really shows what kind of person he is. And I just appreciate so much that he would do that, for a stranger."
She hopes she can thank him personally on Thursday. For now, she's all set to watch what could be an exciting game with a dramatic ending.
"Last second shot, Duke wins! That's my prediction, that's my hope," she said with a grin.
We'll see if her prediction is accurate when the game's over on Thursday.