Friday, June 15, 2012

My Unforgettable Experience as a Racer

This past basketball season was something I never imagined happening as a Murray State student. At times, it felt like a dream. To top it all off, it happened during my senior year.  

If you would have told me that Murray State would win their first 23 games during my last year of college, I would have told you, no way. There’s no chance that would happen. Only in my dreams would that happen. But, it did happen and it was a special year that I will never forget.

It was an emotional year. Ask my friends, I get emotional about sports. I have tears of joy when my team does well and I have tears of devastation when my team fails. It’s a huge part of my life, without sports, life is dull.

My destiny wasn’t supposed to land me at Murray State. My destiny was the University of Kentucky. Anybody who grew up with me would have told you that there was no other option.  

Somehow, I ended up in Racer Nation. I could have gone to Eastern Kentucky with my best friends from high school or I could have gone to UK. At UK, I would have never made it out alive. At EKU, they don’t care about sports, I would be unhappy. I somehow landed in Racer Nation, where I came out alive and a part of a school that has tons of school spirit.

Sadly, college is done and I’m in the real world now.

When that buzzer sounded on March 17, 2012, I cried. Marquette had knocked us out of the NCAA Tournament. Ivan Aska, Donte Poole, and Jewuan Long’s careers were over. But in a way, my time was over too. Never will I watch a Murray State basketball game again as a student. It broke my heart that my Racers were never able to make it to the Sweet 16 while I was a student.

But, when I look back, the Racers have come a long way since I got here on that hot day in August of 2007. The Racers weren’t always the powerhouse that they are now. Freshman year, the Racers won only 18 games. Sophomore year, we stormed the court when we beat Austin Peay just because wewere on ESPNU. The Racers would not make the NCAA tournament in either of thoseyears. I started to wonder if we would ever make the tournament while I was astudent.

Junior year was the start of the turnaround. The Racers hadtheir best season in school history and finished the season with a 31-5 record.In the first round of the NCAA tournament, Danero Thomas hit a buzzer beater tosend four seed Vanderbilt home in the first round. Murray State was a 13 seed.

I’ll never forget the details of that shot. My threeroommates and I were gathered around the TV. As soon as Thomas hit that shot,two of them ran outside and over the balcony while the other ran in theopposite direction. I ran into the kitchen with tears in my eyes. Only a Racer wouldknow what emotions were running inside of our heads.

Two days later I would cry when the Racers had that disastrouslast possession against Butler. I didn’t know whether or not the Racers wouldmake the tournament again while I was a student.

The first year of my senior year was a solid year. Wefinished first in the OVC but failed to make it to the OVC title game afterbeing upset by Tennessee Tech.

Then, the unforgettable season as a fifth year senior came.It all started out with the Racers taking down Memphis. 23 games into theseason, we were still undefeated. A campaign to get Dick Vitale to Murray hadbegun. It was an exciting time to be a Racer.

I thought that the Dick Vitale dream had ended whenTennessee State came to town and stunned all of Racer Nation. I sat there in thestudent section refusing to accept what had just happened. I was devastated andwas in tears. I thought we had lost our chance to get Dick Vitale to Murray. Iwent to the Murray versus SEMO game the following Saturday not knowing what toexpect. I got a text at the end of the game from my Dad saying Dick Vitale had announced that he wascoming to Murray during the end of the UK-Vanderbilt game. My dream had cometrue. Dick Vitale was coming to my school.  

The following Saturday was a day that I’ll never forget.Fellow students camped out. I went and visited them before sleeping in my own bed.I got in line at 11 a.m. with them. Game time wasn’t for another six hours. Ontop of all that, I got to meet Dick Vitale and got in a picture with him. Itall seemed like a dream.

Murray State whooped St. Mary’s to make the day perfect. Afterthe game I sat and watch the senior video with tears in my eyes. The Racers wonbut it was bittersweet. That was my last game in the student section at theCFSB Center. I realized I’ll never watch a game in the CFSB Center again as astudent. It was depressing. It was over and I knew the end was near. Either way,there was still plenty of basketball left to be played.

The Racers cruised until it was time to meet up withTennessee State again in the OVC Championship game. I went to that game inNashville. The Racers struggled and trailed most of the game. I thought we hadlost it but somehow my Racers managed to scrap away a win and became OVCChamps.

Selection Sunday was a great day. I attended the ceremony atRacer Arena even though I had to give a 10 minute speech the next day. Thatspeech would determine whether or not I graduated. Luckily, I got above a 90 fromall three judges. Even better, I loved the Racers draw. I knew Colorado Statewould be an easy matchup and that we could compete with Marquette.

The Racers cruised through the second round against ColoradoState. Then, there was the Marquette game. I thought this was the day thatMurray State was going to the Sweet 16. For a while it seemed like that wasgoing to become a reality. Sadly, Marquette had more depth and knocked out mybeloved Racers. My Racer experience was over. It was a sad ending but I’ll neverforget the near perfect year the Racers had. To cap it off, it happened duringmy senior year.

My time has ended as a Murray State student but now a new roadbegins as a Racer alumnus. I’ll still cheer for my Racers. It’s depressing butexciting at the same time. I know that the Racers will make a Sweet 16 one day.I won’t be able to say I’m a student, but I’ll proudly say that’s my AlmaMatter. I’ll always remember this, “Once a Racer Always a Racer.”

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