Inspiration in college basketball and sports in general can be drawn from a number of different areas.
Whether it is a player battling back from a nasty injury, achieving more off the field or even a young Ohio State fan overcoming cancer as he named his tumor “Michigan,” inspiration and sports often go hand-in-hand.
With that in mind, read on to see five inspiring Ohio State basketball stories.
Evan Turner is one of the best basketball players to ever lace it up at Ohio State, largely because of his National Player of the Year 2009-10 season. However, that season almost never happened.
Turner broke his back in a nasty fall in an early season blowout of Eastern Michigan, and there was legitimate fear that he would be out for the entire season or worse. After all, there were broken vertebrae, and his overall future off the court seemed more important at the time than basketball consequences.
Despite those concerns, Turner only missed six games total. He took a Buckeye team that started 1-3 in conference and led it to a 14-4 mark and Big Ten championship. He also won Most Outstanding Player at the conference tournament (and knocked out rival Michigan with a game-winning three from just inside half-court).
The fact that Turner not only overcame an injury that would have many people worried about paralysis, is inspirational in itself. Throw in the fact that he won the National Player of the Year and led his team to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, and we have quite a story.
Almost every major college basketball team has that guy on the end of the bench (often a walk-on) that comes in at the end of blowout wins to entertain the crowd for the final few minutes.
Mark Titus was that player for Ohio State, until his humorous and sarcastic Club Trillion blog exploded in popularity, making him one of the most recognizable players in college basketball (at least by walk-on standards). He chronicled the life of a walk-on and deemed it, Club Trillion, because a walk-on’s box score looks like the number one trillion when he plays one minute and records no other statistics.
Titus became a fan-favorite in Columbus and even broke down in tears on his senior day because of all the support. He went on after basketball to write a book and now writes for Bill Simmons’ Grantland site.
Titus serves as an inspiration for the hundreds of walk-ons across the country that there could be more out there than fetching Gatorade cups and standing on the outside of huddles during timeouts.
Nowadays, especially with the one-and-done rule in place, many college basketball players look at the NCAA the same way baseball players do the minor leagues. It is simply a pit stop on the way to greater glory at the top of the professional level.
Larry Siegfried certainly did not see it that way.
After his defending champion Buckeyes were upset in the national title game by a scrappy Cincinnati team in his final collegiate season, Siegfried refused to sign with the Cincinnati Royals after they drafted him. He was so devastated by the recent loss that he wouldn’t play for the professional team in that city.
He bounced around for a few years with the Cleveland Pipers of the ABA and then as a high-school teacher. Fortunately for Siegfried, his former Ohio State teammate John Havlicek convinced the Celtics’ brass to give him a chance.
Siegfried took advantage and played a critical role on five champion Celtic teams.
But it was his complete devotion to his school even over his own professional career that sticks out as an inspiring story to Buckeye Nation years later.
In the look-at-me culture of self-absorbed athletes and sports today, it’s a breath of fresh air to encounter a prominent athlete redirecting the spotlight.
That is exactly what Deshaun Thomas recently did in a letter to The Lantern (Ohio State University’s newspaper). The gist of the letter was as appreciative as Thomas is for the attention he and his teammates receive in the basketball program, many of the athletes in Ohio State’s other sports deserve to be recognized.
Here is a portion of what Thomas said:
As a basketball player at Ohio State, I am both proud and honored that our university follows our sport the way they do… I know that athletes in other sports that do not get much press coverage are also winning championships… All athletes at Ohio State work very hard at being the best they can be at their sport. I wish that all athletes could receive the attention that our football and basketball teams get. They all deserve to be celebrated.
For someone who was occasionally criticized as a freshman for playing too selfishly on the court, this is inspiring to see.
Jerry Lucas is an NBA Hall-of-Famer, the best basketball player in Ohio State’s history, arguably one of the top two or three to ever lace it up in the Big Ten and even a high-school basketball legend in the state of Ohio.
But his work off the court in retirement is just as inspiring, if not more so, than his impressive basketball accolades.
Lucas reportedly worked more than 15 hours a day developing the Lucas Learning System, which is designed to maximize memory retention. His intention is/was to take the system and implement it for Ohio school children, specifically those between kindergarten and the sixth grade.
He wrote a New York Times bestseller on the system (“The Memory Book”) and authored more than 60 books in total on the subject.
Anytime a celebrity of note takes the time to help children with something as important as education, it is worth pointing out.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.