#40 of 351/ 11% complete
This was indeed the smallest gym I have ever been to in my entire life. That includes countless middle school, high school, college and pro arenas. It does not get more intimate than this with a 1200 seat capacity. I attended the game with my daughter Hope who was visiting friends in New York City. She did ask on multiple occasions, “This is Division 1 basketball?”.
Both rosters were filled with NYC players. Although the teams are in separate leagues, one could tell by the jawing back and forth between both teams that many of the players were on rival teams in the NYC high school scene. As you see the banners in the above picture, I noticed the absence of an NCAA tournament banner. Yes, the St. Francis Terriers are also one of only five Division I programs to have never participated in the NCAA tournament.
I don’t like to bad mouth any player but I can not resist when discussing Ahmed Ismail from Manhattan. I saw this 7′ 2″ Egyptian giant warming up and was intrigued. He would surely dominate this game with his height. On the contrary, I have never seen a worse big man on the college level ever. He hustled and was genuinely trying out there. However, he fumbled 95% of the balls that came to him whether they were passes or rebounds. I am convinced that Ismail was signed sight unseen strictly because of his height. I actually felt sorry for him as the game went on. He is in the center of the picture below.
Player of the game goes to Manhattan guard Zavier Turner. This 5′ 9″ dynamo guard was quicker than anyone else on the floor plus was accurate with his 3 pointers. He is from Indiana so you have to wonder how he ended up in Manhattan. He led all scorers with 26 points.
For those looking for a great place to eat in Brooklyn, check out Harvey’s End. We had excellent salmon and gnocchi. As a key lime connoisseur, I had my first taste of Persian Key lime pie. I am still thinking about it this morning.
Since this will be my last game of the year, happy holidays to all my friends and family!
#39 of 351
This game wraps up my stay in Chicago. Three games in four nights!
So this is one of those games held in a beautiful large arena with a very small number of fans occupying the seats. The entire upper level was empty. This despite a little known fact that Depaul is the largest catholic university in the nation although I would have said Notre Dame. The hey days of Mark Aquirre and George Mikan are but ghosts in this empty arena.
It was sort of a UCONN reunion night for me. The Depaul head coach is Dave Leitao who was Jim Calhoun’s assistant coach at Northeastern and UCONN in the mid 80’s. Leitao left for an unsuccessful stint at Virginia before returning to Depaul.
The Depaul assistant coach Patrick Sellers was also an assistant at UCONN under Calhoun. Sellers left under suspicion for playing a major part in the Nate Miles scandal that rocked UCONN in 2010. He had to hide for a year in China before attempting to make his way back into the coaching ranks in the states.
The Depaul fans have a ritual when there is a two shot foul. When the announcer says “shooting two shots”, the fans slap their hands on the the chair two times. I almost dropped my beer the first time when my seat neighbor did this. I feel it is my call to document the strange habits of college basketball fans as I come across them.
Lamar from Beaumont, Texas (in case you were wondering) played hard but could not keep up with the more talented Demons. These small schools lack the size and quickness to keep with a team from the Big East. As the score became more and more in Depaul’s favor, both teams abandoned defense. “Jack up the stats” became the motto in the second half.
The player of the game was Depaul Eli Cain. The 6’6″ sophomore forward is a break out star in the Big East. He was on the Big East All-Freshman team last year. He scored 21 points tonight in all different ways highlighting his versatility. He will be the lone bright spot for Depaul this year in what may be a long year for the Demons.
I need to see Chicago State and Northwestern to compete the city circuit. Goodbye Chicago for now but I will be back.
#38 of 351
On a snowy day, today was the second game on my Windy City tour. The snow kept down the crowd to minimum. I would bet that the total number of players, cheerleaders and pep band members outnumbered the fans. Both teams are 4-3 and not much is expected this year from either team. The UIC staff should put curtains around the upper level since it was completely empty.
I felt sorry for the mascot seen above. There was nothing for him to do except wander around and high five the few kids that were there. The cheerleaders and dance team were trying their best to ignite a non-existent crowd. Kudos to the few fathers who brought out their little girls to watch this game. I tried very hard to get a thrown T-shirt from the cheerleaders but I would have given it to this little girl who cheered unashamedly despite her beloved Flames losing throughout the game.
The display underneath the scorer’s table had a cool effect. The UIC are named the Flames. Occasionally flames would come up from the floor on the screen. I have a picture below to illustrate this. It looks like the player is sitting in a fire.
As far as the game goes, Eastern Illinois led most of the way before the quiet crowd. I was very impressed with Panther (EIU) Cornell Johnston. He is listed at 5’7″ and 150 pounds. That is being very generous. Johnston was the player of the game by far. He drove by his defenders with ease. His dribbling skills were amazing to watch. This St.Louis product is a junior who will make some noise in the Ohio Valley Conference.
UIC plays Valparaiso late this year. It was publicized as a national broadcast game on ESPNU something that the big programs take for advantage. If you ever feel jaded or take for granted the success of your P5 team, come down and watch one of these games. It will do you wonders.
#37 of 351
This game begins my stretch of 3 games in Chicago in four nights. My Southwest Airlines points were used for a free flight. I am sleeping at my daughter’s apartment and using her car when needed. Not a bad gig!
I checked the start time in Connecticut and saw a 4 PM start time. I left early enough because of my unfamiliarity with driving the Chicago streets. I arrived a little after 3PM assuming I would have time to hang out and survey the surroundings. As I bought the ticket, the student informed me that I only missed the first 5 minutes. As I figured out later, the 4PM time was for Eastern Standard time which equates to 3PM Central time here in Chicago. Another lesson learned on the journey to 351!
It was cool to see San Diego State coach Steve Fisher (pictured below). Astute college BB fans will remember Steve as the coach of the Michigan Fab Five. It is amazing that he is still in coaching and doing a great job with the Aztecs.
This game was part of the Missouri Valley Conference vs. Mountain West Challenge in case you were wondering why these two teams would meet. It was the first meeting ever between them. I was sitting in a very large contingent of San Diego state fans wondering why anyone would want to leave beautiful San Diego for cold Chicago.
A little know fact is that Loyola won the NCAA national championship in 1963 defeating Cincinnati in the title game. But what was more interesting was the semi final game vs. Mississippi State. The state of Mississippi had a state law prohibiting a college team from playing any school with a black player. Loyola actually had four black players. The game was played in violation of a court order.
Player of the game goes to Aundre Jackson of Loyola. The JUCO transfer from McLennan CC was a whirling machine outquicking and overpowering all Aztec defenders. He finished with 24 points hitting 11 out of 12 shots. He started in place of their injured star player Donte Ingram and became the star himself tonight.
So not to be confused with Loyola Maryland, Loyola New Orleans or Loyola Marymount, the Loyola Ramblers pulled off a mighty upset tonight to the delight of the small but loud fans in the Gentile arena.