There couldn’t have been a group more in harmony on Tuesday afternoon then the seniors on the American men’s basketball team. Asked what their favorite memory was from their time playing for the Eagles, every one of them said: winning the Patriot League tournament and taking AU to its first NCAA tournament.
The seven seniors, who will be honored Wednesday night after their final regular season home game, certainly have left their mark at the school. With a win against Navy, the Eagles can earn back-to-back Patriot League championships. But it is last year’s Patriot League tournament title and NCAA tournament berth that have resonated most with Frank Borden, Garrison Carr, Brian Gilmore, Frane Markusovic, Derrick Mercer, Jordan Nichols and Bryce Simon.
“Having the students run down on the floor and having to find my teammates through the madness that was going on, that was pretty fun,” Gilmore said.
From the Patriot League “championship game to the Tennessee game, that whole time frame, a week or two, whatever it was, that’s my favorite memory,” Carr said.
They were equally unanimous about what they would miss the most: their teammates.
“We enjoy being around each other,” Simon said. “We enjoy traveling together, hanging out.”
“Spending time together in the locker room, hanging out together, having that camaraderie and that bond,” Nichols said.
Their answers didn’t vary until they were asked what they were most proud of as individuals. Simon said he is most proud of overcoming his knee injuries. “With that said, [the recovery] has a lot to do with my teammates, my coaches,” he said. “There’s no way I could have done that without them. Every day of rehab made it worth it just because I’d get to play with those guys again.”
Borden is most proud of how he has grown as a person. “Being with the team, the coaches, really made me a better person,” he said. “I’ve matured a lot because of that.” Gilmore is most proud of how he has grown as a leader. “I’ve always been a pretty good vocal leader, but learning to lead by example,” he said.
Mercer is proud of becoming a better all-around player -- “My game has gotten much better from high school,” he said -- while Nichols is proud of becoming the third-best shot-blocker in school history.
Carr is proud of how he contributed to the team's success. "How the team has done so well over the past two years that I’ve been playing a lot of minutes," he said. "It just makes me feel good, like I’ve helped contribute to the team’s success along with everyone else. That’s what I’m most proud of, the team’s success once I started playing a lot. That makes me happy.”
They had lots of fun responding to a request to say something about another senior that no one outside the team knows.
It is unusual to find seven seniors on a team this close-knit, especially considering three of them – Borden, Simon and Markusovic – transferred in a year ago. But this group is special, and not just because of what they have accomplished on the court.
“Their character and personalities and their contributions in other ways, for those of us that have been lucky enough to work with them every day, I think those are the things that I’ll remember and will mean the most to me,” American Coach Jeff Jones said. “It really, really is a terrific group of young men.”
February 25, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
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