For whom the final buzzer sounds

Tonight’s the final home game for the Xavier University men’s basketball team.

I’ve had season tickets for years, and Senior Day is always bittersweet… and not just because it leaves me lacking good excuses for “Dad’s Night Out.”

Most Xavier players stick around for four years. That’s becoming a rarity for top programs, where one-and-done is standard operating procedure. Schools like Kentucky turn over nearly their entire roster every season, as half a dozen blue chippers get drafted by the NBA, and more blue chippers take their place. You can’t even tell the players with a program. (John Calipari, the UK coach, has made this his M.O. and recruiting pitch… and then every year whines about how young his team is. You can’t have it both ways, JC. This is the path you’ve chosen.)

Heck, Duke has a freshman who “reclassified” to start college a year earlier than his high school counterparts, mainly to speed up his journey to NBA riches.

I’m glad Xavier gets the “second tier” kids who don’t bolt. (A few have left early, and two of those are ones that are now on the list of players who might have taken money from agents before or during college… once a shortcutter, always a shortcutter, apparently.) Over the course of four seasons, you get to know the players better – you get to see them grow. You see hard work pay dividends. Sean O’Mara has gone from a benchwarmer, a lumbering ox, to a guy with strong (and smooth) post skills.

J.P. Macura is a classic pest, in the mold of a Danny Ainge, a Dennis Rodman, a Bobby Hurley (or pretty much any Duke player). If he’s on your team, you love him… if he’s on the other side, you absolutely despise him. It’s been fun to see him torture opponents for four seasons.

Trevon Bluiett will graduate as Xavier’s #2 all-time scorer.

He just passed David West, who was lightly recruited in high school… and kept working hard, eventually became college player of the year as a senior and has had a brilliant 15-year career in the NBA.

When it isn’t handed to you on a silver platter, when you haven’t had everyone telling you how great you are since 8th grade, it probably feels sweeter. This year’s seniors have led Xavier to their highest ranking ever (#3), and have a chance to finally wrest the Big East regular season title from Villanova (fingers crossed). They’ve also gotten to enjoy their early adulthood, instead of being yet another piece of meat on an NBA (or D-League) roster. I don’t know about you, but my college years were some of the most memorable and fun times in my life. You can’t put a price tag on that.


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