Layup Lines: triumphant returns and buzzer beaters win the day

Charlie Wilson shoots a free throw. |Photo by Cody Cunningham

Interesting things happen in Union men’s basketball games that often go unnoticed. To help see these games more clearly, some of our writers (Michael Chapman, Trevor James Fox, Logan Whaley and our very own Ted Kluck) put together their thoughts on Union’s last game.

The Bulldogs play inside-out like nobody’s business by Michael Chapman 

Union’s men’s basketball team has an uncanny ability to move players around to play at any spot on the court.

I noticed this after a play about two minutes into the second half of Union’s 73-72 win over Auburn-Montgomery: 180 lb guard Tray Boyd posted up on his defender, drew a double team, and kicked it out to wide open, 230 lb center Charlie Wilson for the wide open jumper.

This was not a one-time occurrence, though. 6’8” forwards Bennet Fuzak and Jared Scott are both proficient three-point shooters and Scott leads the team in three-point percentage.

Even Union’s guards are adept at playing in non-traditional roles. Guards KC Goodwin and Ashanti Day have been able to get low and draw fouls all year and are first and second on the team getting to the line. Day is also among the team leaders in rebounds, ranking first in offensive boards and second on the defensive glass.

I’d bet my life savings on Niven by Ted Kluck

I’m a professor here, and I’m no longer young. As an athlete and a coach, in my darker moments, I sometimes wonder if there is anything redemptive in sports because I see it bring so little that’s redemptive out in me. Often it turns me into a monster – a kind of brute beast. It’s embarrassing and I hate it about myself.

There’s a little kid on our bench, in a suit. He’s the coach’s son and what’s completely riveting to me is that he wears a suit like his dad, rolls up a laminated program thing and paces around with it like his dad, and when there’s a timeout, goes out to address the team with his dad, with a serious look on his little-kid face. It’s actually one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in sports and I’ve seen a lot of cool sports-related things including title fights, lots of NFL football and lots of NBA basketball. If there were a way to wager my life savings on the fact that he’ll one day become a coach, and probably a great one, I would do so.

The older I get, though, the more I’m on the lookout for stuff like this. Stuff to prove that there’s something worthwhile about all of it and that it’s not all just wins, losses, pride and vanity. If you’re a young recruit, you’ll sit in a variety of coach’s offices around the country in which every coach will talk about the importance of “family.” Most of them are lying because sports at the college level can feel a whole lot like a business transaction and in fact usually is a business transaction. I don’t know Coach Niven well, but seeing him here, like this, with his son, gives me hope that at Union it might be true.

The Best Five-Point Performance Ever by Logan Whaley

Nick Velasquez might have had the most effective five-point performances in the history of basketball. Is this an overstatement? Maybe, but you can’t deny that Velasquez’s (or Nico Suave, as the incomparable Ted Kluck calls him) five points were incredibly effective.

Can you think of a better time to score your first points of the game with a three-ball with a minute and a half left in the game to put your team up three and a game-winning floater at the buzzer? I know I couldn’t.

What was even more impressive about this Bulldog victory was the fact that Velasquez’s five points were the ONLY points scored off Union’s bench in the entire game. That’s right, a team that generally uses nine to ten guys per game only scored five points off the bench.

That stat needs to improve if the Bulldogs want to be competitive in conference play.

Focused Warhawks Forced into Timidity by Trevor James Fox

With just over six minutes to play in the first half, Auburn Montgomery’s Romoane Eager looked at his team and told them to slow down. He could see that Union was capitalizing on their mistakes and trying to speed up the game. Union wanted transitions and fast offense. AUM wanted ball movement and working the clock, so Eager set that pace.

Later, Union broke through AUM’s strategy. They set a faster pace of play, putting the Warhawks in a position where their lock down defense wouldn’t be effective. AUM couldn’t cleanly stop the Bulldogs, putting put them in foul trouble early.

AUM’s Kameron Hornbuckle fouled out with about nine minutes left to play in the game. The timidity that comes from foul trouble kept AUM from taking risks late in the game that could have helped them pull away.

Welcome Back Charlie Wilson by Logan Whaley

It’s nice to see you again, Charlie Wilson. The junior made his long-awaited return to the Bulldog starting lineup Thursday night against Auburn-Montgomery and did he ever make an impact.

He lived up to all of the preseason hype attached to him tonight with a team-leading 21 points and six rebounds. The rest of the team looked happy to see Wilson back on the court too because he had at least a touch in nearly every possession.

This is a much-needed boost for this Union team that needed this type of performance from Wilson. This type of win tonight will give the Bulldogs a needed confidence boost heading into the thick of conference play.

Velazquez comes alive on the court by Ted Kluck

Union University shooting guard Nick Velasquez is in my early-morning writing class.  Like most of the students, he shuffles into class looking sleepy and, at times, less than thrilled to be there.  He hasn’t missed a session all semester, but it’s also not a stretch to say that my classroom in the early morning may not be the place where he feels most comfortable, at home, and alive.

Gone last night was the backpack and hoodie pulled up against the December chill.  Aside:  Is there anyone on the planet who looks good with the hooded part of a hooded sweatshirt pulled over their head?  I feel like you could put a hoodie on Winston Churchill, Brad Pitt and Michael Jordan and they would all manage to look awkward in it.  Anyway.

Seeing Nick in this context is a thrill.  The word I would use to describe Nick is “sleek.”  He looks completely at home on the floor – shooting, passing, running, and defending.  Yesterday morning, in class, we had a spirited debate about the New York Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis.  We talked about the reasons why Kobe Bryant is inherently more interesting than LeBron James.  Tonight, he’s doing all of the things we talked about.  It reminds me of what a thrill it is to be young and full of hope and completely in command of your body.  If you ever get the opportunity to feel that way, I highly recommend it.

The “professory” thing to say would be something like, “I’m most thrilled when my students learn.”  That wouldn’t be untrue.  But I’m also thrilled to see them doing what they love to do.  It was fun to see it last night.

About Cardinal & Cream 1006 Articles
The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.