I am a failure. Ok, I really needed to get that off my chest. When I found out I was going to write this blog I had visions of grandeur. One blog per week, creative ideas, and funny angles that would ultimately lead to a cult following which would land me a spot on Bill Simmons’ podcast to talk about the wonderful things that are division III basketball. Oops. I guess some things were just not meant to be. Alas, I failed miserably on all accounts. And for that I would like to say I am deeply and truly sorry to all of my loyal fans, yes both of you.
As you might have figured, (or should have figured by the title of this blog) our season is over. We finished a fantastic season in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in Middlebury, VT with a 64-57 loss to Middlebury. It was a disappointing ending to one of the most rewarding four years of my life. I don’t want to summarize the whole game, but there are a couple of parts I want to highlight elementary school style, yup with Gold Stars. 13 stars to 8 foot tall Andrew Locke of Middlebury. (Wait a minute, that’s Manute Bol) That is one for every block he had Friday night. I’m serious. For those of you scoring at home, that is one more than Jesus had disciples. He blocked me alone 5 times. Here is an example of what happened Friday night. Unbeliveable performance. Andrew, you will receive your stars in the mail. 12 stars for two time NESCAC defensive player of the year Tim Edwards of Middlebury for the number of misses he forced me into Friday night. That’s right I was 3-15. He is a tremendous defensive player and made life difficult for me all night, hence the 3-15 shooting night. On second thought, he can just share his teammate’s the gold stars. 2 stars for the Gordon College Men’s Basketball team for the number of double digit deficits we fought back from. We battled through a rough first half after being down 12 to enter halftime down by 3. In the second half we found ourselves down 16 only to battle back to a five point game with 2 minutes to play. That shows the kind of character and never say die attitude our gritty little squad has. And finally, 1 Million Gold Stars to The Pit. The Pit is the Gordon student section of about 200 students who made the 4 hour trip to Vermont on their own dime because we were on spring break while this game took place. I can’t explain how much their support means to us and if I had anything other than Gold Stars to give out I would. We have the best fans in New England, bar none.
It is difficult to put into words what my time at Gordon has meant to me but since I have this blog I am going to try anyways. I have been blessed to be a part of a TEAM in the truest since. There are many teams around the country but very few TEAMS. A team is a collection of individuals who come together to try to reach some sort of collective goal. A TEAM is a group of people bonded together with a passion for each other who commit to reaching a goal and do everything they can to attain it. TEAMS are special. The latter is what I have experienced the past four years. I am a part of a special class of people who for four years grew to care more about each other than ourselves as individuals. In order to attempt to quantify how special this class has been I am going to go against my nature and brag a little bit. Our senior class will graduate as the All-Time winningest class in school history, has played in more games than any class in school history, the first class to have back-to-back 20 win seasons, two regular season conference championships, and the first Conference Tournament Championship in school history. One of the most incredible stats is that in four years, our class has missed a total of 3 games due to injury. That is 6 players and over 600 games between the 6 of us and we have all been healthy for all except 3. Even more in incredible is that one of our seniors who will remain nameless gets infections like it’s his job. (We found a creative solution to this problem) We have had 6 All-Conference selections, the defensive player of the year, the player of the year, the senior scholar athlete of the year, and we even won the sportsmanship award. It has been an extraordinary four years and I could not have asked for a better group of guys to experience it with.
Maybe you can understand if I tell you a little about these guys. First off is the honorary member of our class Ben “Moose” Drake. Moose played for three years, and was unfortunately unable to finish this season with us. However, Moose is as much of a part of our team’s success as anyone I know. He never played many minutes, but in some ways that is the most important member of the team. People will always look at the most veteran player who does not get many minutes to replicate their attitude. I have never met someone with a better one. He is the epitome of a teammate. Always putting others first, working as hard as he can day in and day out, and constantly supporting his teammates. Moose even joined us for a couple of honorary team showers. Can you say “Only team in America”? (For those of you who don’t understand this concept this video may help)To top it all off, when I looked into the crowd on Friday night, guess who I saw in the first row cheering on his teammates. Yep you guessed it, Moose. Next is Jeff Derr, the 6’8” gentle giant, and walking sports encyclopedia who is one of the most unselfish players I have ever played with. As a multi-skilled big man he has willingly sacrificed his own glory for the good of the team throughout his career and placed others above himself and contributed in some major ways along the way. That is the epitome of a team player. Next is Brady Bajema. There may not be a better teammate in the country than Brady Bajema. I have had the privilege of being co-captains with Brady the past two years. I have never played with a person who truly only cared about winning. He is the most competitive person I know and constantly kicked my butt in pick-up games, practice and shooting drills the past four years. Brady could honestly care less how many points he scores or assists he has as long as his team has more at the end of the day. Next is Tim MacDonnell. You really need to see Timmy play to understand what he does for a team. (Think Dennis Rodman minus the tats and funky hair and add rec specs) I am sure a number of coaches have looked at our stats when scouting us and wondered, “why does this guy play so much” only to watch film and end up wishing he had a team full of guys like Tim. For example, in our final game, Tim took more charges than I took the entire season, possibly my career. Yes I am a ninny, but what Tim does for his team is impossible to quantify in numbers other than wins and losses. His teams just win. Tim literally gave his right arm for his teammates. He has played the last two and a half seasons with a torn labrum. Some people would miss an entire season with that sort of injury. Not Tim, he missed one game his entire career. Finally is Ben Gaskill. When I think about how unique our team is, Ben is the poster child. He is 6’9” with red hair, and runs like a deer (seriously, when in shape he can run a sub 5 min mile). In my two years as his roommate I have seen him dress up as Ernie from Sesame Street, a shark eating a person, wear a bed sheet as a cape, rip that same bed sheet on a fire extinguisher, and spend more time in the shower than any human on than planet. Not only that, but Ben turned himself into a defensive and rebounding menace. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in our conference and was the main reason we ended the regular season with the third highest rebounding margin in the country. He took his role, embraced it and thrived in it. Ben could have tried to be our leading scorer, which would bring more recognition. Instead, he found how he could best help our team win, and without that we would never have reached the level of success that we did. I also must mention the outstanding coaches we had during our career. While we did encounter a major coaching change before this season, we could not have asked for two better men to lead our teams over four years. These coaches not only led us on the basketball court but helped teach us what it meant to be men of character. Coach Murphy, Coach Krass, Coach Whitley, Coach Schauer, and Coach Martin, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
One final note that everyone reading this needs to know. As amazing as this group is, our parents are even more incredible. The six of us are from, Overland Park, KS; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Burlington, VT; Philadelphia, PA; and Worcester, MA and I can count on one had the number of games parents missed this season. The commitment each of our parents made to supporting us is unparalleled. On many occasions my dad described it as “crazy.” While it may have been, it is impossible to express how much the support our parents gave means to each of us. On behalf of all of the seniors, THANK YOU!
I know this is getting long, but you have to be careful to give someone a platform to speak, because they just might use it. Sorry Mr. Coleman. This season has been so rewarding, not because we won so many games and achieved so many program firsts, although we did that a lot. It is because of what we went through to get to where we are. We battled expectations, disappointment, a coaching change, frustration, selfish desires, losses, not to mention our opponents, all to arrive at this point. I have heard the quote, “TEAMS are built through shared challenges.” However they can also be broken through them. We chose to become a TEAM through our challenges. We began this season with a new coach and a 4-3 record; we finished as Conference Champions and a 24-5 record. We began our careers as six strangers from all over the country; we ended it as lifelong friends. Even more than that we helped build a program, just as the classes before us have. While our stated goal was to be the “Best team in Gordon history” the true goal was to leave the program in better shape than we found it. Only time will tell, but if future Gordon teams can become a TEAM like ours, our class will no doubt have been a success, regardless of my failures as a writer.