March 26, 2012
What's up everyone?
The 2011-12 Michigan men's basketball season will be remembered for so many things, some of which include winning the best conference in the country, traveling to the most prestigious tournament in the country -- the Maui Invitational, for the 24 wins and for the four great seniors.
Years from now when I call Zack (Novak) or Stu (Douglass) and talk about this year, we probably won't talk about any of those things. That is because the journey is way more important than the destination. The memories we will share are the laughs we had on the plane, some crazy idea Coach Alexander had, another memorable quote from Coach Jordan; it is everything that happens during the season that makes a team become a team.
We have traveled all across the country spending almost every day together for six months. The hardest part of the season ending is the knowing that this team will never play together again. In the blink of an eye, when the horn went off and zeroes were on the clock, our season was over. That is what makes sports so special; anything can happen at any time and nothing prepares you for the end!
When I decided to come play for Coach Beilein, he asked me why I wanted to be part of this team. I could have received a scholarship to other schools, instead I chose Michigan! I told him I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. There is something mythical about being a part of Michigan. There is something special about being a part of a team, where you give everything you have for the greater good of your teammates. It might not result in wins all the time, but more importantly, it will result in lifelong friendships.
The 16 of us ran every sprint together, watched every clip of film together (trust me, that is a lot harder to do than you think) and most importantly, through all the ups and downs, we stood by each other. We didn't make it to a Sweet 16, but that will not for one second take away all the special memories I have with Zack, Stu, Corey (Person) and Ben (Cronin)!
This season started and ended around three people -- Zack, Stu and Corey. I have said it before, but all three of them capture exactly what it is to be a Michigan basketball player.
You saw it all year in victory, but you also saw it in the locker room after the game in Nashville. They didn't complain about the refs, the ball not going in or it just not being our game. They gave credit to Ohio and knew for whatever reason, their time had come to an end. It wasn't the way they deserved to go out, but for those three, the only way to really capture what they meant was to win a national championship.
They have done everything else.
One of the memories I will have for the rest of my life is watching every member of our team -- from players to coaches to managers -- giving our three seniors a hug for all they have done for our team. From guys who have been around for decades from Coach Beilein to Brian Townsend to Bob Bland, those three guys needed to know how appreciate everyone is for what they did. They made Michigan fans proud again!
I have seen seniors leave before, but it was nothing like this and it shouldn't have been. It was an emotional scene because no one was ready for our season to be over. When the ball tipped at 7:10 p.m., we all expected to be celebrating at 10 p.m., not spending the last moments as a team together.
When I look back at our season, I think a defining moment came in Iowa City. We played our worst game of the season and got crushed by Iowa. We came into the game listening to everyone say how good we were and let it get to our heads. We were worrying about the wrong things, how many points we were scoring, when we would get the next shot, things good teams don't ever think about.
After the game Zack gave a speech that couldn't have been more perfect. He pretty much said if we are going to win this year it was going to be because everyone will 'Control the Controllables.' This means you do things that luck has no effect on. You can't control if you make a shot, but you can make sure you get a loose ball or a rebound.
We know we weren't as talented as some other teams, so we had to win all the dirty categories, the places we could control. Zack summed it up by saying people always say you have four years to play in college, but this team only has one year to play together. It's not the NBA where you can play as long as you want, this season is it. We all decided after that game that we would play for our seniors this year because this team didn't want 2012 to ever end!
That is why this team played so hard every night. The emails I received always point out how fans love watching us play because we play so hard and for each other. The fans are right because that is what we try to do every night. Whether it is J-Mo (Jordan Morgan) jumping over the seats at Indiana for a rebound, Matt (Vogrich) diving and beating everyone on Ohio State for a loose ball, or Zack and Stu both diving for a loose ball against Wisconsin, we always left it on all the court. That leads to great success and that is why 24 times after a game we sang "The Victors" to celebrate a win. It signified that everyone in that locker room was part of the T-E-A-M.
No one can predict the future, and while we are experiencing a transition period right now, it won't change for one second how we play and why we play. This program is back to being a power and it's the job of Matt, Blake (McLimans), Eso (Akunne) and myself to make sure everyone knows what the expectations are for a Michigan basketball player.
The old teach the young in our program, and one thing we have learned is that if you don't have a culture, then it doesn't matter how much talent you have, you will not win. I will promise everyone the culture will be one of Wolverine Excellence!
It all comes back to making sure every player understands Michigan basketball is way bigger than any single individual. From Cazzie Russell to Phil Hubbard to Glen Rice to now Stu and Zack, we are all just blips on the radar.
I want to thank everyone for reading the blog this year and making this season so special. We have the best fans in the country! I will be back next year for my last hurrah, hoping to capture another special season, and who knows, maybe throw in a few updates throughout the offseason and summer months. Workouts have already started for next year as there is no time to rest. I want to thank our SID Tom Wywrot, again, for letting me write this blog.
Until next time ... Go Blue!
Oh and by the way, you can write any last comments or questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org