Juan. Mone. Jake. Mike. Tonight is Senior Night.
Juan. Mone. Jake. Mike. There’s something unique about college sports. Our time here is fixed, fleeting. You get four years, maybe five, to make your mark. You play for your classmates, your friends, and, above all, the name on the front of that jersey that unites you all. And at the end, you put on that graduation cap and walk into the real world.
The game was an emotional one from the get-go. The seniors paraded on the court with their families, who had come from near and far to celebrate with their Owls. The chants were loud, and the Owls were playing hard. The game was hard fought and it was a tough A-10 matchup. UMass had a lot to play for. Win, and they’d make the top four of the A-10, garnering a first-round bye. If we won, we’d get the first place seed in the conference heading into the tournament at Boardwalk Hall next week. Everyone in the building felt what was on the line, and was willing them on.
It was too magical. Too much of a fairy tale. They couldn’t just win in 40 minutes; we needed an extra five. And with that extra five minutes, down by six, things looked perilous. But these Owls battled back, and we ended with a W on Khalif Wyatt’s last-seconds, put-back shot. We didn’t even have time to sing “I Believe,” the game was so close, and so as the players high-fived us down the line, the smiles across their faces as we sang our victory song couldn’t have been wider.
I’m in my third year, not my fourth, and walking out of the Liacouras Center, I took one last look around. It won’t be the last Owls game I see this season by any stretch, or the last one I ever see in this building. But it’ll be the last one here this year. And it’ll be a long nine months until we’re back inside, in our cherry red seats. It’s a sad night whenever we have to say goodbye to our seniors, but each year, it’s gotten harder and harder. I can only imagine how difficult saying goodbye next year will be, when I know I’m taking my bow, too.
I can’t yet tell you about the pride of being an alum. I can’t yet tell you if any of these guys will make the NBA. What I can tell you is that they’ll always be a part of Owls history; they’ll always be a huge part of my college experience. This might have been the last game Juan, Mone, Jake, and Mike will play at the Liacouras Center. But it’s not goodbye. We’ll see you in Atlantic City for the conference tournament. We’ll have your backs in the Big Dance. And no matter what, you’ll always be Owls.
So thank you, seniors. Thank you, Juan. Thank you, Mone. Thank you, Jake. Thank you, Mike. And congratulations. You guys have really done us proud.