Something happened on Sunday. Something that we haven’t seen for a long time from those within the UGA Basketball Program. No, it wasn’t the improbable (damn near impossible as well) victories in the first, second, third, and final rounds of the SEC Tournament. It wasn’t Dennis Felton showing the emotion and pride for UGA Basketball that some thought he lost or even never had. It wasn’t even watching our kids run an offense that was as tenacious and aggressive as their defense.
It wasn’t any of those things.
It was watching these kids and that coach, who have endured years of ups and downs, smile. That’s it. They just smiled. They ran around the center of the Cremmins Court and just listened to the “UGA! UGA! UGA!” cheers from the faithful who also believed there was a chance we could go from worst to first in only four days.
Sometimes you can look at players and tell when they’re embattled. You can see the looks on their faces and know that all they want is a little glory because inside they’re competitors. Sundiata Gaines is one of those types of kids. All season long he kept his head up and continued to be one of the best point guards that UGA’s ever seen. He took this team on his back and the only fade you would get out of this kid would be the one that is completed by a ball touching nothing but net. He was the “African Warrior” that his name stands for. Watching him hold that piece of hardware justifying his hard work makes me proud to be a Dawg today.
Then you have guys like Dave Bliss who showed that sometimes athletes play bigger than their bodies. Bliss reminds me a lot of David Pollack. He cares for the game so much that he just won’t quit. He finally has a healthy year and look what he does. He beats up people down low, he keeps the emotion flowing, and he keeps on fighting no matter how dire the circumstances might have become. Dave Bliss is a leader and a good kid as well. He deserved this as much as anyone.
The list goes on and on, people. You could talk about Woodbury coming into his own as a legitimate outside threat. Albert Jackson showing that he can be the complete player that we have yearned for him to be. Billy Humphrey going hot, then cold, and then getting really hot when it counted most. Jeremy Price taking his lumps and showing true grit by getting back out on the court. Corey Butler for having the mental toughness after handing the game back to Ole Miss and then keeping cool enough to ditch the ball to the open man for the game-winner. And finally, Zac Swansey for giving us a taste of the future and how clutch
the future can be.
But you can’t forget the coach. The mentally and physically exhausted coach that has had the Bulldog Nation in a tizzy as to whether or not his head deserved to be on a platter. You see it happens all the time in college sports where the pressure becomes too much and teams just buckle. But this man wouldn’t let it happen. I personally have been on both the Keep and Fire Dennis Felton bandwagons this season. The funny thing is, though, I was more on the firing side early on and the keeping side late in the season. Why? Because I could see what this man has done for this program and how his kids still play for him no matter what. Even our walk-on teams that we fielded a few years back played with fire. On top of that, I have some good friends who made some good points about this man coming in when no one else would. Now look what our "extended interim." coach has done.
There is one thing I saw from Felton in these past few days that I hadn’t seen from him before…his change from being a coach to being a Dawg. This man has earned our respect as a good person and coach. He earned mine for sure when I watched him hug Sundiata as time ticked down and embrace that kid as his own. He also earned it when he dove into the crowd of the UGA faithful and celebrated with them as any good leader would. Then, as he’s being interviewed, he still takes the time to thank those for their constant support, even when he knew he wasn’t getting it.
Is he the best coach in the business? Nah. But is he good for this program? YES.
UGA did something more special from Thursday to Sunday than any good writer could put into words. Hell, I’m an average one at best and I still know I won’t even come close to doing justice to our feat. All I know is that it’s Monday after the SEC tournament and I’m looking forward to Thursday so I can catch these SEC Champion, NCAA Dancin' Defiant Dawgs in action at least one more time.
Until next time kids.
Labels: March Madness, Men's Basketball