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Zach Finley, #24.

His first two seasons at Princeton, Kevin Steuerer wore it.

As a junior, it went to freshman Zane Ma.

Finally as a senior, Zach Finley could have it.

For his final year as a Tiger, Finley made the decision to switch uniforms from 30, which he had donned in his first 82 collegiate games, to his high school number of 24.

The reason why Finley wanted this integer is the same reason his brother Rhett wore it before him at St Thomas Moore High School in Rapid City. A tribute to South Dakota basketball legend Derek Paulsen, who died in a automobile accident on July 30, 1999.

Paulsen - who wore 24 when playing at home for the Custer Wildcats - and his girlfriend Eva Wahlstrom were hit head on by a car going the wrong way in the wrong lane a few months after he had led his team as a junior to a third place finish in the state tournament.

Both had their seat belts on. Both were killed.

Paulsen's too brief life touched many throughout the state, including both Finley boys. Since 2001 the Derek Paulsen Inspiration Award has been handed out each year to a member of the Dakota Schoolers Basketball Club.

This tragedy was the subject of a 2000 Sports Illustrated piece by E.M. Swift, one that mentions Paulsen drew recruiting interest from both Northwestern and Princeton.

Finley and Paulsen were each MVPs of the Lakota Nation Invitational, eight years apart.

A life cut short over a decade ago, honored for a season 1,743 miles east of Custer. A small, meaningful gesture happening every game this year, unbeknownst to everyone but Zach Finley.

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