Wow, what an unbelievable year it has been for Butler University, our Men’s Basketball Team, and myself. In the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to experience so many wonderful things that you only dream of doing when you grow up. As a freshman on the Men’s Basketball Team I had the chance to play in a lot of fun, big games. It ended early and bitterly that year and as team we vowed that if we can heighten our focus and our ability to perform together and get better everyday that we had a great chance to do something special the following year.
A lot of things came together at this time. I also finally decided to major in Elementary Education, which I absolutely love. My sophomore year started so strong. I was in all education classes and was enjoying every bit of college. Shortly after class starts basketball starts so it only got better. After sitting out for three months from a stress fracture in my left tibia, I was cleared to play the first day of practice (I had to wear an embarrassing, goofy brace). We started #10 in the country and those high expectations were quickly stripped from us when we lost 2 of 3 tournament games in Anaheim. When a lot of people stopped believing in us we began to believe in ourselves even more. We had some big wins against Ohio State, Xavier (if you remember it was one of the most controversial games ever in college basketball, with the clock problem), then won every single Horizon League game including the Horizon League Tournament Championship (no team in the Horizon League has ever achieved such). Then we found out we were a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament playing UTEP in San Jose, California.
Going into the tournament the goal is obviously to win the whole tournament, but until you experience actually making a run you have no idea what this dream is like. The great part about the tournament is almost everyone besides our loyal fans picked us to lose almost every game. We went through San Jose beating UTEP followed by a close exciting win against Murray State to go to the Sweet 16. Funny story, I almost died in San Jose from public transportation. There are trains that run through the beautiful city (I’m from Alabama we don’t really have trains running through towns) and I was running my mouth like usual as I was going to throw my trash away. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was or the horn from the train that was honking at me. The train was less than 10 feet away from me and it took Avery Jukes yelling at me to get me see that I probably should speed up otherwise I was a goner.
Lucky we all made it safely to Utah the following week against Syracuse, which I modestly admit we dominated the whole game. Next up was the big game to get back to Indy either watching the Final Four or getting to play in it. In between our shootaround and the game about 16 of got stuck on an elevator for about 25 minutes on the way up to our rooms. At the time it was not very funny because there was no air and we were all very upset. We took our anger out on Kansas State and decided to compete and play so hard. Next thing you know we are celebrating getting to the Final Four for the first time in Butler history. When we got back that night the scene of thousands of fans cheering us on as we pulled up to Hinkle Fieldhouse was unbelievable. As we moved to our hotel downtown and went to our destinations there were always tons of people cheering for us. People were wearing Butler clothes like none of us had ever seen before. Every restaurant we walked into we got a standing ovation. It was a crazy week to say the least. Our practice of over 30,000 was so much fun, who can say they’ve ever practiced in front of that many people. We got to participate in great media and interviews. We were on TV everywhere and then we finally got to play. Beating Michigan State was great, but then we had to focus on Duke. Gordon Hayward’s final shot couldn’t have been any closer to going in. That would have been the biggest shot in basketball history.
The greatest part were the thousands of people who supported us and cheered for us throughout the whole tournament. We could have gone that far with no support and it would not have been as fun. Our University came together in a way that could only be understood if you were apart of it. Now people aren’t asking, “who is Butler?” or “where is Butler”. Now they know, and those of us who are here are proud to say where we go to school. We lost some guys, but next year we plan on doing the same thing. We know what it takes to get there and are preparing right now to have a great season and make a great run once again. It takes doing something special together and trust me, this team has the same ability to do so. I speak for everyone in our program when I say thank you for all of the support and allowing us to open up the doors at Butler University so people can see the amazing place that many of us now call home.