Wednesday, April 30, 2014
My Decision To Stay
Due to a good second half of the season and a good tournament, I had put myself into a position where people at the next level started talking about me as a potential NBA prospect. I don't think anyone who plays basketball would say that would not excite them. My whole life it has always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA, particularly the Chicago Bulls. Since my Aunt and Uncle worked for the Bulls, I was able to go to their practice facility frequently for birthday parties or to just run around. It was always the best when players were around. I remember when I was 5, in 1998, I was in the facility at the same time with Randy Brown, Dennis Rodman, and Michael Jordan. I remember being so star struck, and wanting to be just like them. My Aunt would give me some of their gear, and I wouldn't take it off for days at a time. I would go back home and tell everyone at school that I was Michael Jordan's new best friend and that he gave me some stuff. Too bad no one really cared at that time.
When I started hearing about being a potential pick in the NBA draft, I tried to shoot down the talk as much as I could during the NCAA tournament. My goal was set on winning a national title, then figuring out everything from there. After we lost, I was blindsided by questions about what I was thinking about doing. I mean I had just lost the biggest game of my life to this point, and people were asking me if I was going to stay in school or leave. I had no idea. I was so frustrated and upset with the fact that we just lost, and then I was being asked my future plans when I was stuck in the moment. I think my exact quote was "I'm not going anywhere," but I wasn't sure at that point.
Until that point, my dad did a great job of blacking out all the noise and keeping me focused on playing. Once that game had finished, I was somewhat overwhelmed with all the different perceptions and opinions of me as an NBA player. My dad's phone became flooded with all sorts of different people calling him and telling him a bunch of different things. We sought out all the information possible. Let me tell you why.
First of all, who wouldn't want to find out how people at the next level view your potential career as an NBA player. Find out what they think you need to work on, what you do well, and what people are looking for. I believe I would have been stupid if I just ignored all that information.
Secondly, the thought of not being broke anymore was very appealing. I know I am going to college and pursuing my degree free of charge, but it comes to a point where you are tired of being broke. I hate looking in my bank account at the end of the month and seeing 20$ left in there. The appeal of potentially a lot of money would entice any collegiate athlete, or any college student for that matter.
Lastly, like I said, it has always been a dream of mine. I can't tell you how many times I have thought about being in the NBA. But playing in college made me realize something. Something important.
I am at the pinnacle of my basketball playing career, at least in my eyes. I know the NBA has their crazy fans and all, but if you look at all of their games, there are games when teams get hardly any fans, and it looks flat out boring. At the Kohl Center, we play in front of nearly 17,000 fans every single time we step onto the court. When we travel, we play in front of sell out crowds who absolutely hate us. Not because of who is on the team, but because of where we go to school. Who could leave that?
Next, my teammates have become my family away from home. Admittedly, a dysfunctional family at times, but a family nonetheless. I have become extremely close with almost every player on the team. If I am ever lucky enough to find a potential wife, I am sure I met who would be my best man at the wedding, my roommate Jordan Smith.
Last but not least, I am 100% positive we are going to have a great team next year. We lose only one player from a team that made it to a Final Four, and everyone will have another year of experience. I've said this before, and I will say it again. I hate losing, so much to the point where I am willing to do anything to win. I don't care if I average 2 points a game. As long as we are winning I am fine with it. Winning trophies and rings has always been more appealing to me than any individual award. I haven't won enough in college to call it a career. Yea, we made it to the final four, but that doesn't mean we won something. It's a great accomplishment and few get to achieve it, but it isn't winning it all. With the pieces we have returning, I believe we can win the Big Ten, and even win the whole damn thing.
I am going to be honest, I absolutely love college. Call me Joe College if you please. I sat down and thought about it for a long time, and I kept coming back to the same exact point. I don't think I would be able to live with the regret of skipping my last year of college to be a potential D-League player or end up in Europe. I have no doubt in my mind that I would have been drafted. I believe that one day I will be put on an NBA roster, but that doesn't happen right away for most people. Especially for a 7 foot white kid with average athleticism.
The NBA can wait. The NBA isn't going anywhere, so neither am I. I know my benefits of coming back to school just as well as I know my risks. But in this case, the benefits outweigh the risks. I made a commitment to the University of Wisconsin, and they made a commitment to me. Who would have thought that I would be in this position at the end of last season? If any, they wouldn't have been willing to bet on that. If you know anything about me, you would know that I pride myself on being loyal. I will always be loyal to anyone or anything that I care about, and I care about this school and this basketball team. They have become part of my identity and who I am.
To wrap things up... I want to say that I love this place. I am exactly where I need to be. The University of Wisconsin has provided me with an opportunity to be the best I can be. So why not provide the University of Wisconsin with the best basketball team that has stepped foot on this campus?
at 1:29 PM