It is an honor playing a small role in Philadelphia basketball most especially the Big 5. What a tradition! It pulls at and out every emotion in your body. There are no casual fans.
On Thursday, my players had the opportunity to participate and compete at the highest of levels. The game vs. Villanova wasn't an artistic success but every player on each team put their heart and soul into the 40 minutes. A national TV audience saw, and, hopefully, understood the "Holy War."
A special note to acknowledge the student sections at each school. The Villanova kids backed their team and stayed away from the uncalled-for insults that are masked as rooting for your team in far too many arenas. The SJU "kids," although small in number, were heard and their support is much appreciated.
The real world now calls each of our players. It is exam week. Practice sessions are shorter since there must be time spent preparing, working with tutors and/or study groups. The anxiousness to perform is comparable to a game. Lectures and projects have been attended to - now it is game time.
This is a tough time for players because as their peers finish their academic work they can head home to family and friends. The players must continue to prepare for the next game - for us Monday, Dec. 22 vs the defending Ivy League champs, Cornell. I've crafted a schedule that will allow each player to spend Dec. 23, 24 and 25 with their loved ones.
The most difficult game for me every year is the one after exams and prior to Christmas break. My staff and I will be hard at work to prepare.
During this break in the action for the 14th year we have adopted four families whom are allowing us to share Christmas with them. Funds were collected at our Creighton game and the team has been divided so that each family gets special consideration. Every year I've gotten tears in my eyes witnessing my guys "shop." Their idea of fashion and bargains, often, make me laugh. To watch them wrap the gifts calls into question: How did they pass kindergarten? We end up with lots and lots of scotch tape on every package and plenty of wasted wrapping paper.
The night of delivering fills me with pride. Each and every player gets more than they give. It truly is their presences in the home that makes this a tradition that will always be a part of my program.
If we don't get a chance to visit prior to the holidays, my hope is that you and your family enjoy a blessed Christmas.