Column: Hoop it up

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 3, 2006

Over the weekend I had a chance to watch some great basketball. It didn’t occur in the NBA, or at Williams Arena (although that performance by the Gophers was impressive.)

This game was at the University of St. Thomas and featured many players you have never heard of, and most likely will never hear of again for their basketball prowess.

This was a Division III basketball game between the UST Tommie’s and the Pipers of Hamline. The game was tilted in favor of UST, the No. 1 team in the MIAC conference, who won by a 40-point margin.

What made this game so great was the passion with which it was played. These kids were playing a game they loved because they loved it, and not because they had scholarships or because they were auditioning for the NBA.

Private schools like UST can’t hand out athletic scholarships so their athletes work hard on the court and in the classroom in hopes of getting academic scholarships.

A few years ago the Gophers welcomed Kris Humphries back after he had turned down their scholarship offer for one to Duke University. Well, Humphries decided he would not be able to showcase his ‘talents’ in a Duke uniform and came to the U to sabotage one year of rebuilding by

Coach Dan Monson. During his time Humphries hogged the ball, threw up shots from anywhere at anytime and lead a mediocre Gophers team nowhere.

On Saturday, UST showed what playing like a team really means. They shared the ball, from point guard Sean Sweeny’s behind the back dishes to Isaac Roosevelt, to the entire team standing when freshman Brian Sames hit two free throws to give the Tommie’s 100 points.

These kids realize their chances of getting to the NBA are slim to none. In fact the only D-3 hoopster to get drafted in the first round is Devon George, a Benilde St. Margaret and Augsburg product. He won three championships with the Lakers; many of these players will be lucky to get Lakers tickets.

No, what these kids realize is just how much fun the game is, and how they are lucky to still be playing. Sean Sweeny is a senior on this team, and next year he will most likely not being playing basketball competitively for the first time in his life. You can tell by watching him just how much these games, and the camaraderie with his team means.

Kris Humphries was drafted 13th overall by the Utah Jazz, but due to his lack of production and being in Coach Jerry Sloan’s dog house, there is a chance he won’t be playing much next year either. Sweeny on the other hand will be graduating with a degree and the feeling of belonging to something special, like this team. Rather than being told, as Humphries has, that he is something special.