Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March Madness - Bryan's 5 Worst and Best Games Ever

I was thrilled to see my name on the Decade’s Best high school players for the 1990’s in the Grand Rapids Press. It’s an honor to be on that list and my appreciation of previous basketball accomplishments grows every year. In the spirit of March basketball, I have gone back and recapped what I believe to be the best 5 and worst 5 games of my basketball career.

Bottom 5

5. Tri-Unity - West Catholic @ Welsh Auditorium Freshman Year

This was my second game playing for Tri-Unity at the varsity level after starting the first four games on the JV team. This was the game that I was later quoted in various newspapers across Michigan as, “I did everything but pee my pants.” I received a couple of boxes of Depends from my friends after that quote hit the papers. My parents should be so proud of their son.

At the time, though, it wasn’t very funny. I will never forget being so awestruck of West Catholic’s senior guard, Aaron Nauta. He ate me for lunch this day, raising a lot of questions as to why I was moved up to varsity so early. We lost the game while I had 3 points and 7 turnovers.

4. BSV Wulfen – Herten @ Herten Germany 1.regionalliga

This game was against Wulfen’s rival towards the end of the regular season. I had been playing very well at the time and was convinced that I was going to go in there and torch them for 40 points. I was especially motivated to perform in front of a packed house and because their point guard, Daniel Kehl, wore a head band and tube socks (kind of weird motivation looking back on it.)

The game never played out as I had imagined. It was as if the entire game went by without me. I was playing in the game, as in I was on the court, but I missed all of the action. We lost by 20 (110-90) and I picked up some trash free throws at the end to save face with 12 points. I wondered, later that night, if anyone noticed that I had a terrible game. I learned the answer the next morning when I was confronted by one of the youth players (I was their coach):

Martin (my youth teams point guard): What happened last night?

Me: I don’t know. It was just a bad game.

Martin: Just a bad game? Were you sick out there? You looked lost.

Me: No, I was fine.

Martin: Were you drunk? Because you looked drunk out there.

Me: No, I wasn’t drunk. So, I guess I didn’t play well, huh?

Martin: No, you didn’t (and then walked away)

I was glad that the newspaper article was in a foreign language because I didn’t want to read about how poorly I played. I just hope the paper didn’t speculate on my alcohol level at game time.

3. Tri-Unity Christian – Covenant Christian @ Unity Christian Junior Year

We enjoyed some classic games against our River Valley rival, Covenant Christian. This one was classically bad.

I will never forget listening to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, from the movie Titanic, before the game. (Come on, it was hit at the time) Nevertheless, there was a war on the basketball court that night, but my mind was playing a slow flute and recounting the lyrics,

“Every night in my dreamsI see you, I feel you,That is how I know you go on”

I couldn’t get out of first gear and we paid the price. Covenant crushed us that night. I was lucky to get to 7 points to go along with 7 turnovers.

Later that night, while at home taking a shower I finally showed some fight, by throwing everything in sight. My Dad, after hearing the crashing from downstairs, ran upstairs and shouted at me, “Are you going to pout all night or are you going to get mad and do something about it next time you play them?” 13 years later, this question sticks with me every time I fail and is a great principle to live by.

2. Cornerstone University – St. Francis (IN) Home Junior Year

This was a game that we actually won, but was the worst collegiate game I can remember. I was still trying to fit in at Cornerstone and was coming off the bench at the time. I remember crying after the game out of pure frustration with my own performance. I had just scored 2 points in 20 minutes of playing time and looked completely lost out on the court.

This was the night that I spent in the car. I don’t think many people know about this, but I was very good at being a sore loser. Not in public, but in private. The losses haunted me. It wasn’t even that I liked winning so much, but rather, I hated to lose so much that I would do whatever it took to not feel the pain of losing. In high school, I had a back door escape route that steered clear of any college coaches in case of a loss. I had one for home games and one for our neutral games at Grandville High School. The good news is that we never lost at Tri-Unity, so I never had to use it. In hindsight, this probably was not a good idea for a marginally athletic, 5’10” point guard to do to a college coach.

This night, I felt that I didn’t deserve to sleep in a bed, so I drove to Lowell and spent the night in my car in a Meijer parking lot. What good did it do? Nothing, really. But I did break out the next game and ended up having a couple of good years at Cornerstone.

1. Tri-Unity – Fowler Districts Senior Year @ Freedom Baptist HS

When deciding which game to put number 1 on the worst game list, this game was an instant no-brainer. This was a game that, 11 years later, I still dream about being able to play again and go on to make a long run in the State tournament.

This was a game where I was shut down by a more physical player and I simply let it happen. Instead of being a senior leader and stepping up to the challenge, I stood by and watched Fowler’s seniors walk all over us, and acted like there would always be another game. They moved on and we went home.

My regret about this game is that I didn’t fight for this game and give 100%. I truly feel that this is why the game sticks out in my mind so clearly all of these years later.
Each year, I remind Coach Keeler to tell his players to give 100% every game, especially in the tournament, so that they will have no regrets when they later reflect on their basketball playing days.

Honorable Mention:

U16 AAU Game – Grand Rapids Magic @ Kalamazoo College

This game was my time to shine in front of college coaches. I promptly went out in front of them and put on a shooting display. It just wasn’t the right kind of display. 1-15 from the field, mostly open shots. The one shot I made was a lay-up. If I could make an excuse, (it’s my blog post) I did throw 7 innings the previous day. I can’t say that this accounted for all 14 misses though, but I am sure it contributed to it.

Deutsche Bank Rec Game

This game just happened this year. I came out in my first game playing with my new colleagues at Deutsche Bank and proceeded to introduce myself by jacking up shot after shot. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I could have made a couple. Instead of passing the ball, I just kept shooting, and shooting, and shooting. I am so happy that nobody was keeping track because I was probably 3-30 from the field (I am trying not to exaggerate).

For a rec game, I was seriously bothered by this debacle of a game. I will never forget Dana’s classic words of encouragement that night as I sat slumped in our dining room chair, “At least you won’t have to read about how poorly you played in the paper tomorrow.” Thanks, Dear.

The Top 5

5. Tri-Unity – West Michigan Christian @ Grandville Middle School Junior Year
This game was for the River Valley championship. I started out the game with some early free throws and a couple of layups. From there, the other shots started to fall. By halftime we were winning by about 20 and I had 30 points. We cruised in the second half and ended up winning by about 20. I finished the game with 36 points. We went on to lose to Brad Gray’s Adrian Lenawee Christian team in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.

One thing I will never forget about this game came afterwards when my Mom congratulated me with a “You would have had a good game if you would have showed up to play in the second half.” She later conceded that I played ok, but confessed that this would have been the game to go for 50-60.

4. Grand Rapids Vs. Lansing Warriors AAU U16 @ Lansing

Where was coach Izzo when this game was played? In fact, there were no college coaches at this game. This was a game where our opponents played zone the whole game and 3 pointer after 3 pointer presented itself over and over again. I think I blacked out this game, but when I went back to coherence, I had 52 points and we won by 20.

All I remember from this game is the other coach yelling, “Guard the shooter!” Why do coaches say that? It only gives the ‘shooter’ more confidence. Instead, he should have been yelling, “Guard the overrated white kid that can only be successful at a small school!” Now that would shake a shooters confidence.

3. Tri-Unity Maple City Glen Lake @ Breslin Center Freshman Year

I had been riding the seniors coat tails all season trying not to screw up too badly. I finally started to contribute and play well in the Regionals. This streak continued right into the finals. The only difference was that this was the State Final game was picked up and magnified by the media. I finished with 17 or 19 points in our win.

In hindsight, I played way over my head that game and was given credit for something that the other four seniors earned. I still like to watch that tape. To this day I still wonder how it was possible that I was 15 and didn’t have any armpit hair.

2. Cornerstone University – Siena Heights @ Cornerstone Senior Year

This was a conference game where I broke my nose 5 minutes into the game from an ‘errant’ elbow. I had given my share of these elbows (you don’t play for the Detroit Roadrunners and not learn these dirty tricks) but was on the receiving end this time.

I will never forget my friend from Calvin, Dr. Ellens and his lovely wife, Mary, were in attendance and he came down to help when I was laying on the court. Our trainer asked him, “Are you a doctor?” and Dr. Ellens said, “Yes, and I’m his dentist.” Right then, I knew I was in good hands. They took me back and clotted the gushing blood.

With my nose hanging limp to the left and my modeling career over before it even started, I went back into the game 5 minutes later with 2 tampons in my nose. This game was probably the most physical game I have played, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

We ended up pulling away at the very end of the game and won by 13, 88-75. I finished with 30 points. The doctor put my nose back in place a couple weeks later and made it look, in my opinion, better than it did before the break. My modeling career still hasn’t taken off.

1. BSV Wulfen – DVD Dortmund @ Wulfen WBV Pokal Finals Game 2

The final competitive game I have ever played took place in Germany. We were a .500 team all year and were up against the team that won our league by pretty much running the table, going 26-2. We had lost to them both times during the regular season. For the finals, we had to play a home and away with the aggregate total, ala soccer, taking the championship.
Game 1 was in Dortmund. The city of Wulfen rented a train to come to this game. The club hadn’t won this tournament in 20-30 years and they were hungry for a championship. We played great there and I had a pull up jumper at the elbow with the game tied (my patented shot) at the buzzer that missed off the rim. As I was walking back to the huddle to regroup for overtime, the teams were shaking hands and our fans were celebrating. The game had ended in a tie. We had taken home court advantage from Dortmund and set up a winner take all game at home.

I knew that Game 2 would be my final game and that I would be heading back to America to get a ‘real’ job, so I wanted to make it count.

That night, myself and the entire team, played out of our minds again. I even had a dunk…in the pregame warm-up. I was hitting shots, dishing out assists, and even tearing down rebounds. Rob, the other American guard, was scoring at will. Our center, Azte, who had the body of a professional wrestler, was hitting jumpers. When that happened, I thought the apocalypse was here. Everything came together. It was beautiful. We won by about 10 points and the celebration began.

After the game, I have never hugged so many people, especially men, ever. Some of them were crying. It was like the Detroit Lions won the Super Bowl and I was the quarterback of the Lions. And, yes, I would cry too if the Lions ever win the Super Bowl.

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

March Madness-your memories are fun to read. I remember watching all your games and thinking you were great at all of them!! One you didn't list was winning Covenant Chr. when TCS played at the new Grandville HS. Another Bryan/TCS standout!! As always, Go Bryan, Go Jesus!!
Mrs. D :)