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East TN natives Drew Pember and Tajion Jones look to lead UNCA to upset win over UCLA in NCAA Tournament

Pember is a Knoxville native and was named Big South Player of the Year this season. Jones is an Oak Ridge native and is UNCA's all-time leading scorer.
Credit: Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two former high school students from East Tennessee will try and lead UNC Asheville to a big upset win over UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Knoxville native Drew Pember and Oak Ridge native Tajion Jones have led the Bulldogs to this point and are looking to create some madness in March. Pember is the Big South Player of the Year and Big South Player of the Year. Jones is the all-time leading scorer in UNCA program history.

Both are grateful for the support they're receiving from home as they prepare for the NCAA Tournament game.

"It's really cool," Jones said. "A lot of people from back home are cheering us on. We've had unlimited support from — I mean, I'm from Oak Ridge, but very close to Knoxville. I know he (Pember) has had support from Knoxville being from there. It's been a cool experience, we love the support. It's just something that's really cool for us."

Pember echoed that.

"It's a big blessing," Pember said. "That's the best way I can put it. It's just a really big blessing."

Trent Stephney is a Knoxville native too and comes off the bench for the Bulldogs.

The two will try and lead the West Region 15th-seeded Bulldogs to a huge upset over the two-seed UCLA. Game time is at 10:05 p.m. on TruTv. 

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