Seniors are a Class Act
by Michael Ermitage
There really is nothing like your senior year in college. Your class load is light, you know the places to go and it seems as though you know everyone when you go there. You have college down and your confidence is like Muhammad Ali on fight night, nothing can bring you down. I would be willing to bet that just about everyone short of Hugh Hefner would chose their senior year in college if they had a year to re-live. This year in college hoops is the year of the senior. After many years of early NBA entrees, high school phenoms and one-year wonders – the college hoops game has returned to its roots – the seasoned college basketball player.
Long before Dejuan Wagner, long before Jerry Stackhouse, and even before Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, younger players in college hoops had to prove their worth. A coach would almost never insert a freshman or sophomore in a lineup before a senior, particularly to start the season. Never mind that it was unheard of to guarantee a starting position to a promising recruit. No, rookies had to earn their respect just like everyone else. In addition to logging time on the scout team, they had to carry towels, run errands, even say “sir” to his elder teammates.
Even the Fab Five supposedly challenged the older players on the team to a game in order to gain their respect. But that is long gone. Nowadays, new star players rule the roost, owning the new, kinder “player’s coach” and immediately changing the chemistry of the locker room. And that’s why, you rarely see a group of young players, or a team led by a young star, make much noise.
A quick look around the nation reveals that many of this year’s top players are seniors. These are players that have earned their status as team leaders. These are players that did not run for the green of the NBA. These are players that know what it is like to be carefree in college, to walk down University Ave. and have everyone know their name, to be the representative of a community and a leader of a team.
My All-American team is made up of all seniors:
Chris Marcus, senior, center, Western Kentucky – No one is more counted upon to carry his team than Marcus. There are few pure centers in college basketball anymore, but Marcus has all the qualities of a solid post player. He has a variety of post moves, can overpower weaker defenders and is an adept passer out the post. The Hilltoppers season rests on Marcus’ health and performance.
Jason Gardner, senior, guard, Arizona – Gardner is as smooth as his jersey number – 22. Capable of taking over a game with the dribble or with a long-range jumper, Gardner tested the NBA waters only to return to the Wildcats. His best quality is you never see him get emotionalâ€¦ until it counts and then he raises his game and the emotions of his teammates.
Kirk Hinrich, senior, guard, Kansas – Everything about Hinrich’s game is deceptive. His lanky, non-athletic looking body looks to be more fit for shuffleboard than basketball. But Hinrich is a fluid open-court player as well as a dead-eye shooter. Whether on the wing waiting for a pass or in transition with the ball, Hinrich is extremely dangerous.
Luke Walton, senior, forward, Arizona – There is no doubt that the Wildcats are the top team in the nation with two super seniors on the roster. Walton does a little bit of everything, from scoring to transition passing. While his old man remains a scar on the sports broadcasting landscape, the younger Walton is a highlight of college hoops.
Erwin Dudley, senior, forward, Alabama – Dudley is a mound of muscle that is very difficult for opponents to match up with inside. News out of Tuscaloosa is that the SEC’s returning Player of the Year has added some range to his game. Look for a polished Dudley to dominate the SEC.
These five, however, are just the beginning of an incredible list of senior players. Also in their last year of play is the following:
Troy Bell, Boston College
Nick Collison, Kansas
Reece Gaines, Louisville
Brandin Knight, Pittsburght
Matt Bonner, Florida
Jason Kapono, UCLA
Hollis Price, Oklahoma
Mike Sweetney, Georgetown
Brett Blizzard, UNC Wilmington
Ronald Dupree, LSU
Marcus Hatten, St. John’s
Josh Howard, Wake Forest
Brett Nelson, Florida
Theron Smith, Ball State
David West, Xavier
Brian Cook, Illinois
Willie Deane, Purdue
Tom Coverdale, Indiana
With all these seniors, March should be as competitive as we’ve seen it in recent years. Nothing is more competitive than a college basketball senior taking his final stab at a National Championship.
Certainly, this will be a year every one of these guys will look back on with fond memories, whether they end up on a basketball court or behind a desk in the coming years.