vs. DePaul
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Stop Bowden

When we started preparing for this game, it was made all too clear to the big men on our team that the majority of the burden for securing a victory would lie on our shoulders. Bryant Bowden, all 6'8" 260 lbs. or so of him (not at all lean mass, I might add) was lauded by Coach Swanson as the force to be reckoned with. He was the secret to DePaul's success and that was all too obvious after watching some tapes. Bowden's style was to more or less lull his opponent to sleep by walking up and down the court, standing around taking up space and then at the last possible moment throw his big rump in front of him, seal him off and call for the ball. We had seen this work against other teams but we were determined that he'd not do the same to us. "He always goes over his right shoulder in the post--we've only seen him go to his left twice and each time he shot a little hook shot"--famous last words of Coach Swanson. What he failed to mention to us is that the big boy also had a pretty quick baseline spin move to his left. Evan and I got caught on that one once a piece...fortunately, though, he travelled on his attempt against me for if he hadn't, I would have been called for the hack. Oh well.

Between Evan and myself, we had little trouble getting him where we wanted him. His strength was marginal at best considering his size and he made little to no attempt to deny post feeds. We were not impressed with him.

However, shutting down Bowden wasn't good enough to secure a win. It was by no means anything like our game vs. DePaul a year earlier (a good old-fashioned 40-point butt kicking during which we supplied the butts)--we actually played quite well overall and even had an early second-half lead; but a series of missed freethrows and turnovers took their toll as we watched the game slowly slip away from us.

After the game, Coach Byrd was rather emotional. He was proud of the effort we put forth and was truly disturbed that we were not able to pull off the victory. With tears welling in his eyes, he told us that we deserved to win that game and that he felt bad. Evan piped up with his ever present words of encouragement but they didn't work for me. He assured us that we will start winning games and that we do have a good team--two things that I will not dispute; it's just that Evan's words weren't enough to pierce the feelings of frustration I felt at the moment.

Fighting back the tears

Heading out of the locker room, we were reminded of our obligation to meet with the booster club upstairs. I had totally forgotten. The day before, our receptionist informed me that a season ticket-holding family of four recently were the victims of a fire that consumed their house and everything inside--all their worldly possessions were lost in the blaze. Fortunately no one was home when the blaze ripped through their home, but to have everything you own suddenly taken from you is not an experience you'd wish on even your worst enemies (I've been through a similar situation myself. When I was 10 years old, my family auctioned off everything we owned minus the clothes on on our backs so we could move to Florida. Nothing quite like the feeling of watching your life being sold off to the highest bidder right before your very eyes).

Upstairs in the "N Club" I was introduced to a couple and their two little children, both only about knee high (I would guess about 6 or so years old). The little boy, I was told, was my biggest fan--he has all my stats memorized and knows everything about me. As I reached out to shake his little hand, his eyes lit up and he handed me a handfull of gameday posters to sign (I was featured on the front). As photographers all around us captured the moment on film, it was all I could do to fight back the tears. I wanted to take both of them in my arms and tell them that I was going to make it all better for them. I wanted to tell them that everything was going to be alright. I wanted to take them in my arms and cry. These children have nothing--no house, no bed of their own, no toys, no clothes--NOTHING, yet getting the chance to meet me was the highlight of this little boy's day.

The aftermath

I went back to Evan's house after the game. After calling a good friend on the phone from another room, the images of those two children began to haunt me. Their smiling faces totally hid the tradgedy of their loss but I felt their pain nonetheless. It was all too real to me, all too painful. As I hung up the phone I sat there in the silence, lights turned down, staring at the wall. Just then I realized how utterly insignificant my dismal performance on the court that night really was. I was concerened about my stats and the ever increasing number of zeros I have been accumulating over the past few games but there are more important things to worry about in this life. An old saying goes "I once complained that I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet"...funny how applicable an age-old saying can be, isn't it?
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