In my first few years as a broadcaster of Big Ten basketball, I always appreciated the way Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers handled Senior Day. It was simple yet effective. At the end of the game, Knight would say a few words, and then the players would speak. The Badgers were there for Knight’s infamous line “I want they bury me upside down so my critics can kiss my_______.” That quote aside, having been there for a couple of Indiana’s postgame ceremonies has been enjoyable to see.
In the last few years, Wisconsin has ramped up its Senior Day (or Night) as well. It is always touching to see the seniors introduced before the game, with their families there to greet them. After the game, there is a very well-done video tribute. We can only guess what goes through the minds of the players and their families during that video. I suppose there are a few minutes of reflection, and likely a tear or two. With this group, there is much for which to be proud.
Morris Cain: He is a player you might not see on the floor very often, but I doubt anyone on the squad would have a bad thing to say about him. Morris’ work on the scout team has been a very important part of the team’s success in his time as a Badger. The players respect him, and I know Bo Ryan and his staff greatly appreciate what Morris has meant to the program. It was fun watching Morris hit a jump shot late in Sunday’s home finale.
Kevin Gullickson: Here is someone who could have gone to any school in the country. A very bright young man, the stats really don’t do him justice. I remember a game at Penn State a couple of years ago, when the Badgers were scuffling a bit. Bo inserts Kevin, and in 10 critical minutes, he produces four points, three assists and two rebounds to help Wisconsin pull away for the win. Besides that, I discovered Kevin and I have similar interests in authors of fiction (Vince Flynn and Lee Child, in case you are wondering).
Joe Krabbenhoft: I thought this young man might be a little special based on his reaction to the Badgers winning the Paradise Jam in his freshman year. In that three-game tourney in November of 2005, Joe played a total of 29 minutes and scored four points. After they won the title by beating Old Dominion, Joe looked like the happiest player in college basketball. I remember bumping into him back at the hotel, and he was absolutely giddy. To anyone who has had the pleasure of getting to know him is aware, Joe couldn’t care less about his own numbers. He is just about winning. And he has won a lot.
Marcus Landry: As Tom Oates wrote in Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal, Marcus made a lasting impression on folks when he met the media just after he discovered he would be ineligible for the second semester of his freshman year. I remember standing there listening to him and thinking “Why is he doing this? Just release a statement and move on.” He chose the other option. Not only did Marcus turn into one of the Big Ten’s better players, he also has been nationally recognized for his academic work. On the court, I doubt many folks had any idea how sick Marcus was for the Indiana game in Bloomington. Let’s just say he has had more pleasant plane rides than what he went through that night. Through it all, he just keeps going and is doing all he can to make his final college season count.
Hopefully, this group will have several more games together. But when the season is done, it is clear these four players have set an example of how to deal with the good times as well as the bad. It is a group that has handled everything with class. If I am a fan and/or an alum, I’d feel pretty good about that.