I’m walking into the gym in Chapel Hill, North Carolina the night before we played UNC in the Big10/ACC Challenge and I’m behind some old dude with gray hair. This would be my first time seeing this beast of a gym. You know, you see it on TV all the time, the powder blue and the Air Jordan symbol… But there’s a ton of things running through my mind. I turn the corner, still trailing the old dude, and finally I see the blue. And I am telling you - it is as blue as an ocean. I let out an “Oh f*ck” only to see the old dude turn around, and it’s head honcho Roy Williams. He chuckles and goes “You like that sh*t?” and walks away smiling. Meanwhile, I turned around and made a quick pit stop at the bathroom before heading out to the court so I could change my boxers (from the ‘oh shit’ moment talking to Roy). As if that wasn’t wild enough, during our game J. Cole (Rapper) was sitting front row. Of course, being me, I let him know I was about to shoot a deep three (remember, this is still warm ups, so no pressure really). He actually responded to me with a small giggle and I absolutely buried the shot, straight net, buttermilk. After I made the shot, I of course looked back to see if he was watching, and shockingly he was - smiling. No words were spoken, but that’s a bond that’s pretty unbreakable right there. (I also did that with John Wall at one of our home games; however, I airballed by a foot). That is a memory I will have the rest of my life. That gym was insane. That game was crazy.
Editor’s Note: UMD is one of the loudest and craziest arenas in the country. Not only does the place sell beer, which is just nuts, but we have actual nuts in our crowd. Take that however you may. “The Wall” (Reference Section) is up there as one of the most intimidating sights to see and our fans are just downright ruthless. I mean, they chanted at Isaac Haas “You are ugly” for 3 straight years … I actually felt bad for the dude. When you come here, you have to have your teammates’ backs, and have to absolutely want it… i.e. you are either a boy or a man.
When I talk about having your family’s back, “having to want it,” or “being either a boy or a man,” these are all commonly used phrases on every team I have ever been on and also in my household growing up. Throughout my years growing up with 2 brothers, as well as 30 cousins, there were times you simply had to separate the boys from the men and understand who had your back the most. In my family, there was no choice - you grow up when you need to and you always have each others backs.
Quick story about someone always having my back is my cousin Nick Stewart, often times referred to as Big Train (picture provided below). I was getting abused at Indiana a couple years back.. Some guy in the front row was yelling things at me the whole night, and enough was enough for Big Train - he cleaned him up with a knock-out punch. I am 90% sure that to this day, Big Train isn’t allowed in the arena because of that incident. But nonetheless he made a grown up decision, had my back, and wanted it.
I believe the most common instances when the terms are used on our team is when you shoot an airball or miss bad, and then come back the next possession still firing and bury a three... it simply means you are an adult and you want it. I will always remember when Kevin Huerter airballed a wide open three pointer from the left corner at Minnesota in the second half. I’m talking you could have tested the wind speed, measured out the exact distance, and taken a dump, he was that open man. Anyways, he airballed. But that is when you see whether you want it or not. If you are a boy, you pass up your next shot and don’t shoot the rest of the game… If you are a grown up, you do exactly what Kevin did. The very next possession, he came off a down screen on the left wing and shot a three on the move from the top of the key. He buried it. Straight net. I am looking around the crowd shooting people individually with finger guns. Minnesota has this weird court setup where the benches are below the actual court. So I had to get up and stand on the court in order to look different people in the eye, shooting them, while making the big balls symbol (Reference Section). I looked at Travis, my benchmate, and quickly let him know that the dude had nuts the size of an elephant - but also, that he was a grown up making grown up decisions. I asked him after the game how he had the nuts to do that and he simply said, “Y’all had my back, I wasn’t worried.”
Needless to say, I have played in some pretty sweet arenas. So let’s keep it moving and talk about another crazy one that I briefly mentioned earlier. In the heart of Basketball Country - Indiana University - is quite possibly the loudest arena in the nation. Let’s hit on the time we visited there my freshman year (our Sweet Sixteen Year). We don’t even need to talk about the game, let’s just talk about the things that happened pregame. Nothing was playing out in our favor. At all. Pregame started like any other… Melo getting booed (but secretly cheered on) by the fans. People were going after Jake Layman and his “silky cotton” hair. And then there were my friends from home and other IU people just going after my entire life. However, things quickly took a turn for the worst. Before each game in the visiting locker room we are usually dealt pretty bad hands in regards to the bathroom. And Indiana handed us the worst hand, being that the two toilets are about 12 inches away from the team area where we talk and get ready for the game. Per usual, people were coming in and out of the bathroom getting themselves ready and amped up. That is until Diamond walked out laughing… because he took a dump and clogged the toilet. Let me tell you guys, it was BAD. Legitimately cleared house. Coach Turgeon literally walked in, took one breath and said “holy sh*t, we gotta get out of here.” Needless to say, the bathroom was destroyed and we were all a little rattled. But at the same time - we are all just a bunch of kids, so we laughed it off and got ready for the game just like any other day.
That year might have been the most fun I ever had playing basketball. Our team was so talented it was scary… I have had a ton of questions about what really happened that year and why we didn’t go further, and honestly the answer is pretty simple. It is really tough to make it far in the tournament - no matter who you are. I understand the outside perspective that college sports are only about talent, the best coaches and the best recruits. That is simply not true. We had one of the most talented teams along with one of the best coaches in the business. Our system worked. We simply lost. Not just to any team, to a team that was the number 1 ranked team in the country for 8 straight weeks leading into the tournament. We didn’t fold, we had them down by one at halftime. They just had a few more things go right for them in the end, and at that stage that is what decides a lot of games. We didn’t fold.
Believe me, I do understand why people think the Sweet 16 was underachieving, but at the same time you don’t understand how good you have to be just to get there. Top 16 programs in the country. There are so many factors that go into winning tournament games that people simply don’t understand, and quite frankly, at that stage it’s primarily the team that has the fewest turnovers and the least amount of mistakes that advances. Think about it, these games come down to one or two possessions. If you get there, anyone can win because everyone has talent and everyone is well coached. So to answer the many questions about ‘did we underachieve?’ Absolutely not. We just didn’t have enough things go right in the game the way we needed to that night. I mean sh*t we had a technical foul on Jake Layman for hanging on the rim and if you watch the replay (Provided below)... it was simply a joke. Just one instance of things not going our way. But that is what makes the tournament as crazy as it is.
One last story before I go - In Spokane for the round of 32 we played Hawaii. Those dudes were good, but more than that they were all insane. Psychotic. Half way through the first half, a ball went out of bounds a foot away from me. The point guard from Hawaii was right beside me so of course I said some explicit stuff.
Editor's Note: We don’t call it the south pole for nothing. Some things that get said are disgusting.
This dude gets right in front of my face, one inch from my nose, and I remember whispering, ‘you gonna kiss me or something?’ hoping to make him smile or break a little... he literally just stared at me. Not a good stare… a crazy stare. A “you just messed up” stare and for the first time in my life I was shook. The dude didn’t say a word, just kept looking at the last player on the bench and completely rattled me. I was a boy in that moment. I sat down not knowing what to do. I was so shook. The next few possessions everytime the guy scored he just kept looking at me. A slight smile every once in awhile. My mind felt like mashed potatoes and I had no answer for the guy. Luckily, Mr. Layman did. Put 20 on his ass. And no worries, I snapped out of it soon into the second half while laying some shoulder breaking fist pumps. I’m talking I fist pound so hard that my shoulder leaves the socket. I lead the country in that department.
I hope everyone had an incredible Thanksgiving break! I have some ideas coming... tshirts… clothing… a brand… etc. Let me know if you like that idea by voting below! But first, pass me a towel buddy, it’s cold down here.
P.S. Keep the questions coming. I got so many questions about Indiana university, crazy arena’s and the Sweet 16 team that I had to answer those in full on the post above. I will address more questions later.
The Wall - This is our student section. Fun fact —> the creator of the arena was going to make both sides exactly the same, but there ended up being a giant rock that could not be broken, so they had to build straight up and down; therefore, creating the monster wall where people ruin player's’ lives and embarrass families.
Big Balls Symbol - Left and right hand about halfway down your thigh (or at your knees depending on what just happened), palms pointing upward. This is representing you carrying two heavy items...aka 2 big balls.
Marshall (11/23)… Uh, we beat them by 40. Not a pretend 40, a real 40. We held them to their lowest point total of the year and I believe the stat was actually the lowest point total in the past 2 years. Our defense is turning it on and our offense is honing in. Again, this stuff takes time. It does not just happen overnight. We are moving in the right direction! This was an NCAA tournament team last year that beat WVU to go to the round of 32. Those guys were probably the toughest team we faced all year and we took care of them. Handled them like some adults.
Bench Warnings have been brought up to a 5 count on the season with the referees all over me. They literally don’t leave our bench alone.
WE PLAY VIRGINIA TOMORROW for the ACC/B1G Ten Challenge. PACK THE WALL! Watch on ESPN at 7:30pm.
Then… We head into Big Ten play. Let’s ride, baby.
TERRELL TRILLION TRACKER:
Trillions are up to 6 and we are rolling. **fist pump**