Howdy TGS fans! I have been on a long hiatus from writing on the Internet, but I’m here like John Starks in a do or die game for the Knicks.
Over the past year, I’ve been relentless – coming home from my sports radio job to watch college basketball almost every evening and taking tireless notes about each game I inhaled. My wallet is probably grateful, but my heart is sad that March Madness was cancelled.
Today would have been the second day of the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament, and it’s tough to think about. According to Stadium reporter Jeff Goodman, the NCAA plans to vote on its decision to extend a season of eligibility to winter and spring sports on Monday, March 30th.
I wanted to do a series of farewell letters to senior college basketball players that may not get the chance to lace them up for their respective institutions again. Instead of doing a full blown series dedicated only to seniors, I’m going to release three short “Thank You” letters to college basketball players that have declared for the NBA Draft in this post. Next week, I’ll be pouring my heart out each day of the week to a different player that was a senior this season because it’s unlikely that winter sports athletes get an extra year.
James Wiseman, C Memphis
Admittedly, I didn’t watch a second of James Wiseman as a Memphis Tiger. He only played in three games for Penny Hardaway’s college squad before telling the NCAA “up yours.”
I want to thank Wiseman though, for changing the entire college basketball landscape. The NCAA told him that he was ineligible, and he decided to sue the NCAA for his eligibility.
After filing his lawsuit, he only played two more games before saying, “Deuces.” That is an absolute power move. Wiseman averaged almost 20 points and over 10 boards in his three games, and ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Wiseman #3 on his big board after initially being the consensus #1 overall pick when he eschewed the NCAA’s 12 game suspension and decided to prep for the NBA Draft instead.
I can’t wait to see Wiseman play against teams that aren’t undermanned like University of Illinois-Carbondale. I just want to thank him for his power moves and giving us such powerful glimpses that could only serve to build the hype.
Tre Jones, PG Duke
Tre Jones is the younger brother of Memphis Grizzlies guard and fellow Coach K disciple Tyus Jones. Unlike his brother, Tre decided to return for his sophomore year and tore up the ACC, and he averaged 16.2 points, 6.4 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game that were all improvements over his freshman year. He declared for the NBA Draft on March 21st.
I simply want to thank Tre Jones for hitting this unbelievable shot to force OT against arch rival UNC. I can’t stand North Carolina, so I was very bummed as Duke was about to get knocked off by an extremely lesser team from Chapel Hill.
Tre Jones mercifully, thankfully, willed his magic, and Duke came back to win 98-96 in OT. Jones finished with 28 points, 3 steals, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds to lead the way. Thank you for keeping in North Carolina in check, Tre Jones.
Nico Mannion, PG Arizona
Mannion made it look cool to be a white guy playing basketball again when he was in high school. I can’t thank him enough for that.
As a diehard Arizona State sports fan, I also want to thank him for leaving Tuscon before he could actually improve the Wildcats. Mannion averaged 14 points per game and told UArizona head coach Sean Miller that he was going pro after the Wildcats lost to the Huskies in the regular season finale.
Unfortunately, Mannion’s stock is falling rapidly, so hopefully, he isn’t the one thanking me for the extra motivation next season to come back and set the Pac-12 and NCAA Basketball on fire. Fingers crossed.
There are plenty of other underclassmen that have already declared for the NBA Draft. I didn’t see enough of Dayton forward Obi Toppin, who is a top-5 NBA Draft pick to have anything to write about. My 10 channel cable package doesn’t include NBC Sports or CBS Sports Network, which is where you could catch most of Dayton’s conference slate this year.
Also, I mean no disrespect to Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton. I only watched the Cyclones a few times this year, and my dive bar adventure with Aaron Wall informed me that Iowa State basketball was mostly heartbreaking this year. Sorry for your loss, Cyclone fans.
Every year, I find a way to root for and watch too much Michigan State basketball, but that wasn’t the case this year. That’s why I can’t pinpoint anything specifically to thank Michigan State center Xavier Tillman for, but he was a pleasure to watch over the last three years.
Iowa’s Luka Garza hasn’t declared for the NBA Draft, and if he comes back for his senior season, the Hawkeyes are well-positioned for a great season. Despite that, I still want to thank him for putting the team on his back in that final game at Illinois as a four-point underdog.
The Hawkeyes were down by as many as 16 points in the second half of that game and managed to lose by only 2 points. Garza chipped in 28 points and 8 boards while never leaving the court. That kind of dedication prevented a little of bit of March Sadness for myself.
Check back every day next week to read longer letters to some of college basketball’s brightest seniors from this past season. They will be missed, and it’s hard to believe that Kansas’ Perry Ellis is still among them (Haha, I’m just kidding). Shout me out on Twitter @mrdavidgraf who I shouldn’t have overlooked or put it in the comments below.