Futon Report: Handing out senior GPAsWritten by Matt Sussman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When you’re a senior – athlete or not – your final year is supposed to be a little self-indulgent. You’ve paid you’re dues for three years. Now its your turn. But it doesn’t always wind up like that. The most painful example is the UT basketball team.
March 7 was the final home game for four seniors who scraped through probably the most dismal season of their basketball careers. Except for Anthony Byrd, they got to play in the MAC tournament championship game their freshman year, but now three years later their February goal was just trying not to finish last. Although they won their home finale against Northern Illinois 74-69, they still finished 12th (last) in the MAC. Seven wins in a season is never something positive, unless you’re talking about Pop Warner football or your name is Dontrelle Willis.
While the rest of the team may be the talk of next year, 2009 should be about the seniors – who are also, no coincidence, the four team captains – so let’s see how each performed. To give this in-depth look a more academic feel (since that’s what’s important), I will don my judgmental dean’s cap and assign each player a grade point average (GPA) based not only on ranks within the team, but also on their expectations.
(All stats are recent as of March 7.)
His freshman year, I remember saying to myself, “This guy is going to be fun to watch someday.” And he was – for the next two years. Amos matured from a brash, wild player into a smart athlete who created turnovers, played tough defense, and could jump-start a rally. He was still brash, but that’s what made it more fun. This year, under a new coach, things just didn’t seem to click between him and Gene Cross. The dynamic he had with former coach Stan Joplin worked so much better for him, and maybe that’s what led to his in-season suspension for violating team rules.
Beyond the box score, he just didn’t play like himself. It was almost as if he was afraid to make a mistake, and that hesitation would result in … well, a mistake. He still hustled at times, and would try to light a fire under the collective Rockets’ posterior. He played inspired Sunday against NIU, and sometimes all you can ask for is a great last impression.
He led the team in scoring efficiency (0.46 points per minute), assists (3.1/game) and and steals (1.8/game), but he also led the team in turnovers (4.4/game).
I will probably look back at Amos’s basketball career as a combination of disappointment and unfortunate luck. He had the chance to overtake Robierre Cullars as the most entertaining player in recent Rockets history. Instead, he’ll rank right below him.
This Year’s GPA: 2.3
Cumulative GPA: 3.2
Since his first two years were played at Canisius College, and scholars to this day are not sure how to pronounce “Canisius,” I will strike his freshman and sophomore years from the record; I’ll just tell him that his basketball credits got lost in the transfer.
Byrd will go down in Rockets history as the prototypical role player. This year he was the de facto point guard until Cross was comfortable in playing Larry Bastfield as all-time point. As a result, Byrd’s minutes have slowly gone down. In the last five games before Senior Day, only once did he surpass 20 minutes.
He is probably UT’s best free throw shooter, which is probably the best kept secret among the team. Last year he was 88 percent at the line (37-of-42), and his numbers at Canisius were equally impressive, but he shot only nine free throws all year, missing four of them. That’s astounding. Either he’s failing at drawing contact, or he’s making fun of the refs’ mothers.
He’s been a solid player, and I give him extra credit for not complaining (at least publicly) about his dwindling lack of playing time. He’ll go down in Rockets history along with guys like Art Norman and Rory Jones in the class of junior transfers who executed the role they were asked to fill.
This Year’s GPA: 2.8
Cumulative GPA: 2.7
When I watched Johnson play in his first couple of years, I thought this guy could evolve into a great scorer. That never really seemed to happen. Even in his junior year, he averaged just under nine points a game (11.2 points/40 minutes). Among other adversity this year, Johnson missed six games with an injury in January and battled through pain, playing only six minutes in the last three games (with zero points and just one shot) leading up to Senior Day, in which he logged all of nine minutes.
So unlike Amos, I’m not disappointed in him, because you can’t yell at someone for getting hurt. (Although high school football coaches in Texas probably beg to differ.) If nothing else, Johnson got to appear on “The Today Show,” a feat about which few college basketball players can brag.
This Year’s GPA: Incomplete
Cumulative GPA: 2.8
Even though I arranged this by last name, it sure worked out that the alphabet saved the best for last. Kent led the Rockets in scoring his junior and senior years (16.9/game, 14.9/game respectively). He also logged more minutes than anyone else in the last two years. So it’s fair to say the success of the team should fall on his shoulders more than anyone else except for the head coach. And both of those years were disappointing for the team. While he might’ve had more points than anyone else, Kent had a very inconsistent year in terms of scoring. Sometimes he’d take over the game (such as his 37 points against Xavier) and sometimes, during a loss, he’d shrivel away like a dandelion (zero points in that dreadful 91-58 loss at Ohio).
Kent will probably be remembered as a Keith Triplett-type leader in Rockets history. Sure, he was good individually, but his teams suffered mediocre fates.
This Year’s GPA: 3.1
Cumulative GPA: 3.3
Oh, and I’ll grade the underclassmen later.