Wednesday, October 10, 2007

2007 Men's Basketball: The Culmination of a 100-Year Story

As a sports writer, I have to find and write stories every week. It is a task that I mostly love and always find challenging. I have found that good stories can come in all shapes and forms, but the great ones can sometimes be hard to find until they land in your lap.

I have spent the last four years covering Davidson basketball and writing stories about winning streaks, the sons of NBA greats, coaching philosophies and the Davidson fan experience. I have had the privilege of watching the Wildcats win conference titles on national television, interviewing the players and coaches in press conferences and seeing how Davidson men's basketball has become a national story.

But this column isn't supposed to be about my story. It's supposed to be about you. What role does Davidson basketball play in your college story? Did you sing and help make "Sweet Caroline" the college anthem last year? Where were you when Davidson demolished Big 12 power Missouri in Belk Arena?

Many in the national basketball media are pointing to Davidson as having the potential to be this year's best college basketball story. They look at our academic values, on-the-court accomplishments and small size and label Davidson men's basketball as a great success story. They will use mediums like Sports Illustrated and to spread their interpretations of Davidson's story to the rest of the nation.

Davidson's players will play their own role in this story. Preseason expectations are high, and the players have to make their paper attributes take life on the basketball court. This story could feel very different if the Wildcats struggle in out-of-conference games and get upset in the Southern Conference tournament in March. It could also exceed our wildest dreams if Davidson lands a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and knocks off a team from a power conference.

But again, this story still reside with you. You don't have to wait on us media types to give expression to the plots taking place on the court and in the stands. Add your own layers to this larger narrative. Take a road trip with your friends to a road game when you have a huge test the next day. It really is true that you will remember the experience more than the material from your test. Hold a listening party in your room and take in the eccentricities of Davidson's venerable radio announcer John Kilgo. Show up early to that fanatic.

But like all good stories, the story of the 2007-2008 men's basketball season is not complete without a little background exposition. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Davidson basketball, and the athletic department plans to hold a reunion event to welcome back some from the legends of the program's storied history. With the presence of players like Stephen Curry and Jason Richards and a community's aspirations for NCAA Tournament glory, it seems like a great year to do some reflecting on how Davidson basketball became such a big deal.

Names like Snyder, Hetzel, Gerdy, Cobb and Rucker might look familiar to frequent visitors of Belk Arena. Those are the names on the retired jerseys hanging from the rafters. But most of us look at those dates under the names and realize that we don't know the first thing about Davidson basketball in the 1940's or 1960's or even 1980's and 1990's.

I have decided to devote the next four issues of The Davidsonian sports section, leading up to the D-I opener against North Carolina, to enriching our collective understanding of the story of Davidson basketball. From the days of intramural competition through the glory years of national prominence and the subsequent years of relative insignificance, Davidson basketball has come a long way.

I urge you to expose yourself to a brief piece of our rich history by engaging the larger story of Davidson basketball. But don't forget to take the opportunity to write your own story this year. There's a chance that it could just as glorious as we all imagine.

This is the first piece of a four-part Davidsonian series on the 100th anniversary of Davidson basketball.

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