Michigan basketball players trying to come to grips after season is 'taken away'
This wasn’t how it was supposed to end.
Within a matter of hours on Thursday, coronavirus concerns brought the college basketball season to a screeching halt.
First, the Big Ten made the decision to cancel the remainder of its men’s basketball tournament in Indianapolis. Later in the day, the NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
It was an unprecedented measure for an unprecedented situation.
“Man...it’s crazy how fast a season can end and would’ve been great to end it on the court with my brothers,” Michigan sophomore forward Brandon Johns Jr. wrote in an Instagram post. “I love my team and we’ve been so connected through the ups and downs of this season. No matter what was said about us or what has happened. Brothers for life and I know these guys got my back and I know I got theirs. Love y’all man.”
Johns was just one of several Wolverines who took to social media to react to Thursday’s news, which came on the same day Michigan was set to start its postseason and open Big Ten tournament play against Rutgers.
Sophomore wing Adrien Nunez expressed similar surprise at the finality of it all.
“Wow just like that the season is taken away,” Nunez wrote in an Instagram post. “We worked so hard all year for this part of the season and never got to achieve our ultimate goal. Even though it did not end the way we envisioned it I am grateful for experiences and relationships I have built this year. Everyone stay safe!”
Michigan was in the process of going through pregame warmups at Bankers Life Fieldhouse before the decisions were made. Little did the Wolverines know, it would mark the last time the group would ever take the floor together.
That’s because the move brought a sudden end to the careers of seniors Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson, the program’s two all-time winningest players who built a resume that included 108 victories, two Big Ten tournament titles and a national title game appearance.
“And like that it’s over,” Teske wrote in an Instagram post. “I wouldn’t change my last 4 years playing here any differently. I’ll cherish these memories that I’ve made forever and will never forget my brothers. Go blue!”
Teske’s post included photos from this season’s home finale as well as past postseasons. Like Teske, Simpson shared memories with pictures from Michigan’s Final Four run along with two crying face emojis on Instagram.
On Friday, the NCAA called for student-athletes in spring sports to get an extra year of eligibility. It would also be looking into possibilities for winter sports athletes.
While it remains to be seen what that could mean for Teske and Simpson, Johns and junior walk-on guard Luke Wilson both expressed their appreciation for what the two have meant to them on and off the court.
“Thank you X and Jon. For showing me what leaders are all about and giving me guidance along the way of this year and last year,” Johns wrote. “We all made so many memories and will last a lifetime. Thank you for all of the lessons and fun times. I wish y’all the best with whatever you all decide to do and y’all will have my support through thick and thin.”
Wilson wrote on Instagram: “One of the harder goodbyes I’m going to have to get used to. Thanks for being such an important part of my life these past 3 years. The best leaders, teammates, and brothers I could ask for. I got your backs until my heart stops beating!”
Michigan, of course, is just one of the many college basketball teams across the nation that won’t get to experience the madness of March.
That doesn’t include all the other sporting teams who had also their postseason aspirations shattered with the NCAA’s cancellation of all winter and spring championship events.
“Thinking of all the student athletes impacted by today’s news — please pull those closest to you closer than ever before — you are not alone,” associate head coach Phil Martelli tweeted.
But as coronavirus continues to sweep the globe, the health issue is bigger than sports.
The World Health Organization declared a pandemic on Wednesday, and there are more than 140,000 confirmed cases of the virus affecting at least 137 countries.
“Please use common sense when it comes to the coronavirus! It is real and it is present among us!” Jay Smith, Michigan’s director of player personnel and development, tweeted. “Pray for a successful end to this period of time.”