There was something wrong with me. Not physically, mentally. A sort of blockage between my brain and my fingertips. A hyperbolic sickness that reared its ugly head every time I sat down to write.
From Christmas on, I took in college basketball as I always have, with every intention of putting
pen to paper fingers to keyboard. But when that time came, I sat starring at a blank Word doc, fingers twitching.
I’d plug in a sentence or two. Scrap it. Start over. Hate my lead. Check Twitter. Try again. Stare at the cursor blinking, blinking, blinkingblinkingblinkingBLINKING. Only to slam my computer shut. On and on it went.
I seemingly lost my ability to use any part of the English language in sentence form. What little of a writing career I had was already over. Something was preventing me from unplugging this mental block I developed somewhere in between opening gifts and celebrating 2015.
I tried to push through, but strong-arming wasn’t going to work, no matter how hard I tried.
So I just stopped. Until I didn’t.
I’d try again, every few weeks, just to see if anything changed. Nothing. Nothingness. Blocked. On and on it went.
Fast forward to Saturday, March 29th.
While sitting in my perfectly air-conditioned apartment, I decided to try and give this writing thing one last go. If I couldn’t find a way to write about Sam Dekker (who just hit what seemed to be his 38th three of the weekend) and his mind-blowing, hype-filling, jubilation-inspiring performance , I was going to get in touch with my editor and tell him I wouldn’t be able to help with the site henceforth.
I opened up my screen, checked Twitter first, and opened up that old blank page once again. Anddddddd nothing. I couldn’t write a single word about a game in which Dekker played like the poised multi-threat Swiss army knife I hoped he would become after succumbing to the thirst that was this summer’s LeBron Camp.
I knew the guy I was before December had things to say about Dekker’s play (after all it got me more hyped than a new Kevin Hart movie) but that guy was lost somewhere in my own head.
So I did what seems too obvious now; I speed-read through my archive in hopes of re-sparking my writing stroke as Dekker re-sparked his shooting touch somewhere between Disney Land and Hollywood.
Then I saw it, that little light at the end of the tunnel, glimmering in the past.
November 5th, College Hoops Daily Big Ten Preview:
“…but it’s not out of the question that the conference could get two teams into this years Final Four for the first time since 2005…”
And who wrote this prodigal footnote?
That’s right, it was me.
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? ARE. YOU. NOT. ENTERTAINED?
The two teams I put in? Non other than Michigan State and Wisconsin.
I was back. I felt life. Words and thoughts and passion flowed from my brain, to my fingers, to my keyboard, to the blank page. Three months of frustration poured (and is pouring) out of my soul. I felt relieved. I felt vindicated.
How could I not remember that I was (rightfully) blowing my Big Ten horn so obnoxiously well before I had even had a taste of turkey and stuffing yet? Me, Mr. Big Ten, had it sitting right there in front of me all along. I just needed to be, well, right again. And while it may sound petty to use self-approval as a means to an end, I finally got back to doing what I always knew I could.
Balling-just like Dekker.
You might be wondering, what the hell does Sam Dekker going “banana’s” on North Carolina and then going “banana sandwich” against an Arizona team that prides themselves on lock down defense, have to do with my blog writing?
It’s all about finding, recreating, forcing that edge you know is there within you. Displaying what all of your March Madness announcers (most notably Reggie Miller) overly describe as “swag”.
It just so happened that Sam Dekker and I found our “swag” in the same weekend.
Those of you not familiar with Dekker’s journey might not understand exactly what I’m saying. So allow me to explain. You see, in Dekker’s three years on campus, he has lived amongst an onslaught of fan-to-fan speculation and headlines’ questioning what exactly is wrong with his game. He has been present among more continual hee-hawing than Jerry Jones at Johnny Manziel’s “Going Away to Rehab” party.
If you were to talk to any Bucky fan about Dekker prior to this last two game stretch and you were bound to hear things like, “It’s not that he’s bad or anything, he’s just not a star” or “Ultimately he’s Frank’s sidekick” or “Unless he’s attacking the basket, he’s just not that good” or “The jumper is just broken” or “Maybe staying home was just too much stress for him”.
It was like living in First Take: Cheese Curd edition.
I suppose that’s what happens when you walk onto campus with savior hype attached to your hard jaw line and frazzled hair. I supposed that’s what happens when you play a respected game, but are missing the continuous domination that has vaulted players like D’Angelo Russell into house hold names.
It was a story long built. Dekker was only a sophomore in high school when he committed to Bo Ryan. He signed after burying a game winning three point shot to win a state title (which oddly resembled the heat check three with a little over twenty seconds left against Arizona). And unfortunately (or fortunately now), from that point on, Badger fans were lead on a trail of slight disappointment behind the ever-rolling hype machine. It wasn’t as if Dekker was some bust. Far from it. It was that he never put everything together consistently. He wasn’t Frank Kaminsky. Instead, he was his little, faster cutting brother.
But all of that can and will be forgotten as something special is happening right now with Wisconsin, and it has come about in large part to this new Sam Dekker.
Kaminsky is still getting his. But Dekker has been the one that has shined most bright during this tournament run.
I have a theory on how Dekker found this new way to play. It’s my belief that he realized what his future situation looked like, took a deep sigh of relief and finally decided to enter “Screw you mode”, directing it at his own institution and his opponents.
Think about it for a second. Dekker has played his entire career at Wisconsin under the consistent assumption that any tomfoolery will get him instantly benched. A player like Dekker, who has as much bravado as he does balls isn’t really made for playing under Bo Ryan (and this is coming from a guy that was a card carrying member of theFirst Church of Bo). It’s no secret that Dekker drives Bo crazy. He rattles his cage to the absolute core. During the regular season Bo can regulate. He can pull Dekker back in. To play within the confines of Wisconsin Basketball.
But that doesn’t always work in the tourney. Teams know exactly what your doing at all times. Having enough to stop you is an entirely different question. But throwing “Screw you” Dekker into the mix is the ultimate wild card. There was no way North Carolina prepared for it and Arizona looked to have assumed it was a one game fluke. To be fair, how could they not? This current version of Sam Dekker has been corralled and held in check his entire career.
Not anymore. There are new things beyond the red and white on the horizon for Dekker. Much richer things.
We would be joking ourselves if we entertained the idea of Dekker coming back for his senior season. He is projected as a first round pick in this years NBA Draft and that was before the last two games (and we all know how much general managers fall in love with college talent during tournament time). These are, without a doubt, his last games as a collegiate athlete. He knows this. I know this. Bo knows this.
It’s just nice to see Bo let loose, with his Snap-Back Final Four hat in hand. Bo’s finally come to terms that to win that long coveted trophy, he needed to finally let his former five-star, mean mugging, swag king out the bag.
AOnce he did, like the great Shawn Carter once said (of whom I’m assuming can only be Dekker and myself), “I think I got my swagger back…”
Check in later this week for an in depth Final Four preview.