This is a two-part essay. You can read part one here.
I had an intense moment with Coach Sampson after the Wisconsin game last year. The Badgers led by 20 at the half, but we battled back and were down by two with the game winding down. Wisconsin missed a shot, and I grabbed the rebound with six seconds left.
I pushed it up the floor and got it into the frontcourt, and then made a pass to Kyler Edwards. As he caught the ball, the buzzer sounded. I didn’t realize the time, and we lost.
As soon as it happened, in my head, I was like, ‘bro, how do you not know that?’ I’m beating myself up. As a point guard, you’re always supposed to know time; you’re supposed to know timeouts, and you’re supposed to know everything that’s happening in a game.
I got the rebound, and I’m coming down, and all that stuff happens, and I forget, and we lose. I didn’t even get to shake anybody’s hand. I immediately started crying.
When I got to the locker room, Coach was the first one in there. And he told me, “I don’t even have to say anything to you. You’re beating yourself up, but this is the fifth game of the year. And this is your first game, really being in the fire. Just learn from it.”
I’ve learned a lot of lessons in this program over the last few years, but maybe the most important is to rely on my preparation. You never know how a game will go, how the other team will play, or how well you will shoot. You always know whether you prepared the right way.
I try to do whatever the team needs me to do. At the beginning of last year, I wasn’t even really in the rotation. I was the fifth guard: Marcus Sasser, Kyler Edwards, Taze Moore, and Tramon Mark were all in front of me, and I really didn’t have a problem with that. I was trying to help us win.
In my freshmen year, when we went to the Final Four, I was trying to kill those guys in practice every day because that’s what they needed. I was helping them prepare the right way.
Last year, the opportunity came, and I was prepared for it. You must be ready every second of every day once you step on his floor.
When Sasser and Mark went down before Christmas, I knew I’d have to rely on preparation to make everyone around me better. Josh Carlton did not know his role at first. Fabian White was still pretty hesitant at that point. So we’d go into practices, and I’d have to tell them, “bro, you have to score the ball. Shoot it!” Taze Moore and Kyler Edwards were coming along, but we needed Josh and Fab.
The point guard’s job is to encourage his teammates and help keep them focused. We’re a playful group, but once you step on that court, you have to lock in. Sometimes that’s hard because Coach Sampson makes a lot of jokes, but you’re not supposed to laugh at them. Only he can laugh at them; you’re supposed to stay locked in 110%.
Film study is everything. You can talk about everything all day, but once you see it, you can understand it. You see certain things and you start to get it.
Knowing your teammates is so important. We can talk about what pass I need to make for a certain situation, but if I don’t see it on film, how can I be sure I will see it developing in real-time? The film helps everything come together for me. Once I see something on film, I instinctively know it’s there in a game.
Even in practice, it all has to be quick twitch. Coach demands his point guard react instinctively. But, there are certain things in practice where your whole day will be ruined if you make the wrong pass.
Coach demands that his point guard be tough because he expects him to fight through any battle. I’ve got to be the first one on the court; I’ve got to be the last one that leaves. I’ve got to make sure everyone is doing this or doing that. Off the court, I have to help some people do their homework. You have to be there for everybody at every time. Demanding is the prime word. But there’s a reason for it.
After that Wisconsin game, I was down. I was really down, but Coach has the most perfect timing on when and where to encourage you. I knew I would find myself in that situation again, and I knew I was prepared.
A couple of months later, we were playing at Wichita State. Tied after regulation, tied after overtime, and they hit a step-back three on me to tie it at 74 in double OT. I looked straight at the clock and saw five seconds left. I’m yelling at Ramon Walker to take the ball out. “Come on! Come on! Gimme the ball, gimme the ball.”
And I took off, and no one on their team was ready. So I go down the court, weaving through four defenders, draw Ricky Council to the ball, and dish it off to J’Wan Roberts. He dunked it hard, and we were up with 1.2 seconds left.
I jumped out to guard Porter as he heaved it from 3/4 court. Then, as I heard the buzzer sound, I landed a few steps from Coach and went straight to him.
I told him, “Coach Samp, this ain’t Wisconsin.”
Author’s note: I asked for this story to be free to everyone. For more stories like this, Subscribe to HOUNIL.com today.
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