I’d like to think I have some idea what it felt like to play basketball for the New Jersey Institute of Technology last night.
My senior year of high school—three years ago, now—I was captain of the varsity basketball team. We were pretty undermanned, having graduated 14 seniors over the past two years, and quite frankly were by far the least athletic of the eight teams in our league.
We knew it was going to be a long year. We just weren’t sure quite how tough it was actually going to be. We had some close games early—we blew our home opener and a few other games early in the year—but simply couldn’t compete with three or four teams.
Suddenly, we were 0-12. The season, by the way, was only 16 games. With a couple playoff teams remaining on our schedule, we didn’t exactly have many opportunities to pick up a win. Our next game—at home against fellow cellar-dweller Washington Irving—was almost do-or-die.
It wasn’t my best game. After hitting a three-pointer on our first possession, I got into foul trouble. Quickly. As in, three fouls in the first quarter. Only two left for the other three. As in, sat the whole second quarter and played only 45 seconds in the third after picking up my fourth foul. It was a cheap foul on a ball handler; I hardly even touched the guy and they called me for the block.
We led by six entering the fourth quarter, but they were aggressive from the start and kept it close. Midway through the quarter, I found myself in a position to make a difference—finally. Our small forward drove to the basket, and, upon finding himself cut off by a double-team, kicked the ball out to me for an open three.
I drained it and we never looked back.
My stat line was unimpressive—six points, one rebound, and one assist against a team that ended up going 2-14 in league play. I certainly played much better games throughout the year. But the image of that one three-pointer will never leave my mind.
That’s how it must have felt for the NJIT players Wednesday night. The players who had never won a game in their collegiate careers.
That’s how it must have felt for Jheryl Wilson, whose career-high 26 points couldn’t have come at a better time. That’s how it must have felt for Isaiah Wilkerson, who scored eight points in a row when the game got close late.
Sure the win came against Bryant, a team that, like NJIT, isn’t even technically in Division I yet. Think anybody on the Highlanders (that’s NJIT’s nickname, by the way) cared?
Everyone associated with NJIT will remember Wed., Jan. 21, for only one thing: it’s the day the Highlanders won. Nobody on that team will ever, ever forget.
I’d like to think I have some idea what it felt like to play basketball for the New Jersey Institute of Technology last night, but the truth is my team made it to the playoffs sophomore year and won a respectable six games when I was a junior.
The truth is my team lost 12 games in a row, while NJIT lost 51.
The truth is I have no idea.