INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time in 13 years, the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team punched its ticket to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.
Although their championship quest came to an end Saturday night when the team lost to Gonzaga 93-90 on an overtime buzzer-beater, sophomore guard Johnny Juzang was cheered on by his brother, who pulled off an unforgettable surprise just one day before the semifinals.
Christian Juzang moved to Vietnam last summer to pursue a career as a professional basketball player. He hadn’t seen his brother Johnny since the move, except for when he watched him play on television.
That changed on Friday when Christian revealed a secret he’d been keeping from his brother.
Here’s how it went: Johnny Juzang thought he was picking up food dropped off for him by his dad at the team’s hotel, when he was stopped by a camera crew asking for an interview. Little did he know, that crew was about to document a heartwarming reunion with his older brother.
“There’s no way, no! Oh my god,” shouted Johnny when he saw his brother standing outside the hotel doors with other family members. “Literally since August or July, I haven’t seen the dude in forever.”
Christian said he told Johnny he was planning a watch party with friends in Vietnam, since COVID restrictions prevented him from making it home to cheer him on during the tournament.
“He had no idea that I was coming,” said Christian. “He was expecting my dad to drop off his meal and he saw me and that was a really cool moment to share right before he goes onto the big stage again.”
“The fact that we were able to pull this off and make this happen was great.”
Although the Juzang brothers were reunited, there was still a door that separated the two from giving each other a long overdue hug.
“He’s standing right outside the door,” Johnny said while making a hugging motion. “It’s just crazy I wish I could give him a hug.”
“Whether I get to touch him or not, to know he’s experiencing this moment is worth everything. It was obviously worth crossing the world again,” said Christian.
“I’ll get to hug him when it’s all said and done so just really proud and whether I’m watching from afar or up close, this is a priceless moment,” he shared.
Christian, who graduated from and played basketball for Harvard University, said coronavirus took away the opportunity for his team to play in March Madness last year, so he wouldn’t miss his brother getting this chance for the world.
“I’ve see how hard he works, how disciplined he is and how much time he puts into his craft so to see everyone else get to now enjoy and get behind it, it means the world,” shared Christian.
He said his dad has been in town for several weeks cheering on Johnny, and other family members have joined throughout the tournament.
Despite an ending sooner than expected for the UCLA Bruins, this is a special moment the Juzang brothers and their family certainly won’t forget.
As for Christian, it might be some time before he is allowed to return to Vietnam with restrictions in place for COVID-19. That gives him the chance to hopefully see his little brother a little bit longer.
“Everyone’s just so proud of him regardless of the score board, just how well he’s been able to persevere and stick with things, that’s what we’re really the most proud about,” Christian said.