I said in the intro that my blogs for my What It Was Like series would take only a week or so. That was a lie. The truth of the matter is that it is hard to write these because ultimately I would have to tell the tale of a losing event. I hate losing. I may be the worst loser of all-time. I can't tell you how much I hate losing. There have been countless broken items as a result of losing in FIFA. To give a sense of how I view my competitive attitude, I will go back to something I used to hear from a particular individual (won't name names) when I was younger: "if it came down to me vs. a bunch of nuns for a championship game, I would beat them then spit in their face afterward."
Starting off, the trip down to the final four was awesome. I never felt so pampered in my life. I flew first class, had the most leg room that I have ever had on a plane before, I ate good meals, got a bunch of free stuff.
Texas was awesome. It was warm outside, that was a huge deal. Our hotel was awesome as well. We had a full game room inside of our meal room, loaded with ping-pong, billiards, buck hunter, golf game, xbox, and comfortable couches and a huge TV for watching whatever.
The first day we were there, the 8 guys in the rotation had to go over to the stadium early in the morning for media and game-day festivities such as video board shots, videos of us dancing, and fun stuff like that. The arena was far away from the hotel. I mean like 40 minutes far. Driving up to Cowboys Stadium was like driving up to a spaceship. The building was enormous. Biggest arena I have ever been in by far. It was almost a shock to me that we would be playing in a stadium that was as big as that.
During that day, I actually began to enjoy media. I got to talk about basically anything I wanted, and had some good conversations with a lot of different people. I got to dance around, and was filmed doing it. It felt like I was on the set of a movie. It almost felt like we were filming High School Musical or a movie like that for a while. The media session lasted all the way up till our practice time.
Walking on to the floor with no one in the arena was like walking onto a football field. I felt like we were outside. The court was so minuscule in comparison to the rest of the building. The video board screen completely overshadowed the court. I was fascinated with the place. I believe that the arena is almost too overdone, in the sense that the Cowboys only play there like 8 times a year and questioning if they really need that big of a stadium.
The practice was short and sweet. We came back to the locker room and found out that our tournament gift was a brand new pair of Beats. I was actually kind of upset with that because I had just bought a new pair. Oh well.
After that we were taken to BracketTown. BracketTown was my childhood dream come true. They had skill games for every sport. Homerun Derby for baseball, three point shootout for basketball, penalty kicks for soccer, etc. I was drenched in sweat at BracketTown because I was literally running from station to station to play the games. Man that was so much fun.
After BracketTown we were taken to a reception hosted by Jim Nantz, with a guest speaker of George W. Bush. That was pretty awesome. It was nice to know that we were appreciated and being watched by our great nation's former leader.
Flash forward to the next day. More media and more practice. That's about all that happened.
The next day it was my 21st birthday. We celebrated it by having an open media practice and then a practice at SMU right after that. I was fortunate that my family was able to make it to Dallas for the game, so I was at least able to see them.
Flash forward to game day. The part I am going to hate writing. All the media was over. All the distractions were thrown out the window. It was finally time to play. That week felt like it took 3 weeks with how much stuff we were doing. But that was all done.
We took our 40 minute bus ride to the stadium and got into the locker room that was like a mile walk away from the bus offload. Running out on the court was unreal. It was the largest crowd EVER for a basketball game. Think about that. The Wisconsin Men's Basketball team played in front of the largest crowd for a basketball game, only 3 other teams in the world can say that.
The ball was tipped and the game started. We had a small lead at halftime, but Kentucky came out in the second half and beat us up for a while. We withstood their punch and put ourselves in a situation to win the game, and then Kentucky hit a three and Traevon Jackson wasn't able to connect on a last second shot. That shot that Aaron Harrison made was the most heartbreaking shot I have ever been apart of. It was such a big stage, and I believe we deserved to win that game, but we weren't able to pull it out. It reminds me of this:
I still refuse to watch this video because of how heartbreaking it was. I am positive I will never watch that Kentucky game from start to finish because I hate seeing myself losing. Basketball is a crazy sport, and anything can happen. Anyone can beat anyone, and it sucks that we had to lose when we did because the game was taken from us. It would be different if Kentucky would have blown us out, but it took late-game heroics to beat us.
I wouldn't have had any other person on our team taking that last shot by Trae. He was the fearless leader who gave us that lead in the game. He has hit big shot after big shot throughout his career. He was no doubt the most important piece of our run to the Final Four because he was our floor leader. He calls the shots on the floor, and our wins were his artwork. Without Trae, I don't know if we would have had the success that we had. He takes so much criticism from so many different people, and still persists and plays well through all the BS. If you find a person who is more courageous and fearless than Trae, please show them to me. If anyone deserved that shot, he did.
To all the fans who supported us this season, Thank You. You don't realize how much your support and admiration is appreciated.
This season was the most memorable basketball season I have had so far. It sucks that we didn't finish the season with a win, but I wouldn't trade the memories and success we had for anything else. It is going to be weird without Evan, Ben, and Zach not being around anymore, but I know they will all be successful in their future endeavors. At the same time, it is time to work hard so we can get back to the Final Four next year, and win that National Championship.