I want to begin by taking just a sentence or two to acknowledge and thank Mike and the cast of regulars that pepper this site with one liners, fan posts, and even full game breakdowns that all effectively act as commentary gold. Because of the Card Chronicle, this has been the most entertaining and fully developed season of Cards and college basketball that I have ever experienced.
With that being said, I can't believe that my first true impulse to add to this tangled web of information and emotional purging comes to me by the hands, or rather the foot of a Marquette Golden Eagle.
I've never liked Dominic James for all the obvious reasons. First, he established himself as the floor leader of one of our more bitter rivals in Marquette. Second, he did it as a freshman, solidifying his place alongside Laettner, Prickett, and Diener as a guy who would seemingly take a decade to graduate from college. Third, he was a pretty good ball player on both ends of the floor; lightning quick, good handles, good defense, decent shot. And finally, because he always seemed to have better than "pretty good" games against UofL.
So when I heard at halftime of the UConn / Marquette game that James was out indefinitely with a foot injury, and later, that indefinitely meant the end of his college career due to a break of the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, I was surprised by my immediate thoughts. As a fan, I instantly began to analyze what the injury meant in terms of the rivalry rejuvenation on Sunday, and once I came to the conclusion that Marquette might now have its hands more full than it did before the UConn loss, I felt a bit cheated. I have been looking forward to this particular matchup all year; I thought in October that Pitt was a good matchup for us, UConn a bad one, but even after watching Marquette's team, the core of which is comprised of 3 senior guards, I really had no idea how UofL and the Golden Eagles would handle each other. While I still fear what Marquette could do at the White Out, I honestly don't fear it as much. And if I feel cheated, I can only imagine how Dominic James feels.
Which brings me to the aforementioned feelings of confliction that now reside deep inside my gut. Yes, I despise Dominic James for all the reasons outlined above, but venturing deeper into my soul, I come to find why I like him even more. The reasons to like James are far more obvious than the reasons not to. First, he's a true leader. James leads on the court with his play, not his mouth. His threes are assassins, but of the silent variety. He doesn't argue every call. He tries as hard as he can to beat you; when he does he's content, when he doesn't he's gracious. Second, he makes his teammates better. McNeal and Matthews were not national names like James was coming out of high school. But, over the course of four years, James' decision to spread the ball instead of hog it is what ultimately put Marquette in the position to do great things this year, until the injury. Finally, he's a senior. Men like Dominic James and Terrence Williams are slowly becoming a dying breed. Sure, both have tustled with the idea of leaving early for the NBA, but both listened to reliable sources and made good decisions, even when it meant acknowledging weaknesses in their games. Once those decisions were made, they both fully committed to their teams and communities.
Seniors like these should be cherished by the teams' fans, but also by the game's fans. College basketball needs sturdy players like James to solidify its place as the best sport in America. It is a shame to see an injury like this interrupt the last chapter of a great collegiate athlete's career, especially when this instance can now be the example that the agents and friends at home need in attempting to convince the next T Will or DJ to leave early.
"Go Cards" as always, but I hope that on Sunday Dominic James is on the floor when his team is warming up an hour or so before the game. If he is, I might take the time to walk down and tell him all the reasons that Cards fans hated seeing him check into games, but why they hate seeing him on the sidelines even more.