What does 2:40 pm PST on Saturday, March 19 mean to all of you? Probably not much. But here at mrjerz.org it means a lot. We’re gearing up to celebrate. It’s a big day in our lives at this place, and I wanted to take a little time to share what I love so much about that date and time with the rest of you.
In the Fall of 1993, a new chapter in my life began. I was through with high school and looking to the future. I was a baseball player and figured on playing ball in college. But I either wasn’t noticed quite as much as I though I should be, coming from a small town in Nevada that didn’t show up on the radar screen of any pro scouts or college coaches, or I just wasn’t as good as I thought. That last one just can’t be true, can it? I had opportunity to attend a junior college that had recruited me to a degree, if you call phone calls to my house from the coach recruitment. But I looked at the classes they were offering and decided I really didn’t want to waste my first two years of college not studying what I wanted to study. So I cruised into Reno and filled out an application to the University of Nevada. I tried out for the baseball team and they called me up to say that they liked me, but they wanted to send me away to a junior college and let me improve a bit. I declined, so my career was over.
In my time at Nevada, I was a big fan of the sports. I went to football games, basketball games, baseball games. Hell, I even watched volleyball and went to a few track meets. For the first couple of years, football and baseball were good, but football has fallen, and baseball seems to be mediocre. Basketball always sucked. I came from a high school where basketball was weak, except the girls, who were perennial contenders for the state title in the biggest division (but who watches girls basketball?), so it was nothing new to me. We had guys running around the court that were pumped up on campus like they were the shit. Jimmie Moore, Faron “Meat” Hand, Ethan O’Bryant (who, admittedly, led the nation in assists, but where is he now?) all were touted to be that first guy in a long time (ever?) to go pro from Nevada. Bottom line, they all blew, and by the time they were done here, we were ready to run them out of town.
Then we got this new coach. He came from being an assistant at Stanford and he knew how to recruit. He got a kid named Gary Hill-Thomas. The first time I saw that guy play, I was astounded. he could run, pass, shoot, and (gasp!) dunk! I saw him dunk and couldn’t remember if I had ever seen that from a Nevada player. Hill-Thomas was my new favorite guy. Then other guys started trickling in. Pretty quickly we had a team that watched the NCAA selection show because they had a shot to get into the NCAA Tournament. Then they won their conference and were guaranteed a berth in the tournament. Then they won a couple of games and showed up on the map. People stopped asking if Nevada was the same as UNLV (UNLV? Do they have a basketball team there still?). Then we had a player go pro. And he left school early. Not that that should be commended or anything, but it is sort of a badge of honor to 1) get a guy that good, and 2) to prepare him for the pro ranks. Not only did he go pro, but he was a first-rounder. Good stuff from a Podunk, USA school. Then that coach left for his dream job. We were screwed. But his right hand man and very good friend took over. Oh yeah, he also had a shitload of talented players, too. Then they won the WAC regular season title going away. Even a loss in the conference tournament wasn’t enough to keep them out of the NCAA’s. This team has arrived. They are for real.
The road has been long, and we’ve suffered mightily. But on Saturday, March 19 at 2:40 pm PST, the journey will take yet another step. I refuse to believe that Illinois will walk all over this team. Last year, the number 2 team in the country got their asses handed to them by a team from Nevada. It’s possible. And it shall be done. Let the road to the Final Four continue. And if you plan on getting there this year, you’ll have to beat the Pack. Silver and Blue will be the official colors of the Chicago regional, even if they gave a team four home games to win the thing. Take your ass-ugly orange shirts and toss them in the incinerator in the basement of your Illinois projects. This was a wasted year for you, Illini. Party’s at my house, with beer.