Monday, February 16, 2009

Sean Singletary, No. 44, the Greatest Hoo I Ever Knew

College hoops has been a major disappointment for me this season, and the general ineptitude of my beloved Wahoos is a major reason why. Despite this, Sunday night was a great night for Hoos everywhere, and not just because we somehow managed to pull our shit together and rally for an overtime win against #12 Clemson (no, really, it happened). No, Sunday night was great because The University managed to do something right in the sporting arena (almost as surprising as the win) and honor the greatest UVA athlete I have ever seen by retiring Sean Singletary's number 44 at halftime. I say they got this one right because less than a year ago the athletics department retired his "jersey," in a practice that I don't really understand. I guess the idea is that you don't want to just start retiring numbers all over the place, especially in basketball where there are fewer numbers available to start. However, Sean Singletary is one of the greatest ballers ever to strap on the navy and orange, and every bit deserving of his new Virginia Basketball Hall of Fame status. Few players could hold Sean's jock, let alone wear his number.

If not greater than Big Ralph - three-time national player of the year is sort of ridiculous - Sean is Wahoo 1-A. I can remember watching him in his first game ever in the last days of a slowly dying University Hall and being reminded of a young Allen Iverson. Not just because he was about AI's size - maybe 6-feet on his tiptoes - or because he hailed from Philly (AI was still a 76er at the time), but because the kid played at such a high speed yet with such confident ease that we instantly knew we had a player who could take over any game at any time. Call it revisionist or hindsight, but you weren't there - one spin move in and we knew it. A behind-the-back dime moments later confirmed it. Still, it wasn't just the slick moves and quickness - the biggest similarity between Sean and The Answer is that for both players, their huge hearts and, for lack of a better word, cajones, far outweigh their spritely stature. When you watch these guys play, you can see the emotion on their faces. They're going to bounce back after every hard slam to the floor on a drive to the lane and keep driving for more; they're going to demand the ball and confidently drain a bucket in the waning moments when their team needs them most; and they're going to send you home happy knowing that, win or lose, Big Dance or "Barely-qualifies-as-a-consolation-round" unknown tournament they bled every ounce of their being onto that parquet floor.

Everything is so stats-centric these days that I find people don't like hearing about players in these terms. During his tenure at UVA, I found that Sean was inexplicably underrated, if not regarded at all, by many college basketball watchers. I guess that's what happens when every other ESPN college hoops promo shows Dickie V crowdsurfing over a gang of blue-and-white painted trolls Cameron Crazies. Regardless, the fact is that Sean Singletary is a winner. However, if you still want to be a dick about it, here are some things you ought to know about No. 44:
  • As a freshman, $$ was the only Virginia player to start every game during the 2004-2005 season, and was selected to the All-ACC Freshman Team. That year he averaged 10.5 points per game and 3.9 assists per contest, ranking first among ACC freshmen in assists and steals, second in minutes played and third in scoring.
  • Singletary was selected to the 2007-2008 1st Team All-ACC for the third consecutive year, joining Bryant Stith and the aforementioned Sampson as the only Wahoos to be named all-conference three times. Yes, that's three times. Look it up when you want to act like Ty Lawson was better.
  • On March 9, 2008, against the University of Maryland, Singletary scored his 2,000th, and went on to finish his career as the fith-highest all-time scorer in school history with 2,079 points. He also joined greats Johnny Dawkins and Danny Ferry as the only three players in ACC history to record 2,000 career points, 500 career assists, and 400 career rebounds; adding his 200 career steals makes him the only ACC player to ever record each of those four milestones. Read it again. Only one.
Not only is Sean trouble on the court, but he's a gentleman and a scholar off of it. He comes from a great family and in my lone meeting with him he was as interested in asking me what I had been up to since graduation (dude is only 2 years younger than me after all) as I was in telling him that he's the best I ever saw in a UVA uniform. He did try to mess with us, though, as he told us that the only way he'd take this picture was if his "Momma" and "Baby Momma" were in it too. I'll leave you to speculate on which is which, but I'll tell you that neither of those women is Sean's mom and I'm pretty sure he has no children, despite the fact that he is on an NBA roster.

This post is getting long and I've definitely man-crushed enough for one morning, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention what will probably go down as Sean's single greatest career highlight: hitting the game-tying and game-winning baskets in a 68-66 overtime victory at home over Duke on February 7, 2007 in the first year of the incredible new John Paul Jones Arena. The Hoos rode Sean and backcourt mate J.R. Reynolds to a 4-seed and a first-round win over Albany in the NCAA tournament that year, and came within a Singletary rim-out three of the Sweet 16. At the time of the Duke game I was living in Stamford and as such watching at home all by my lonesome, so I decided to keep a running diary of the night's events. It was one of the best coincidences of my sport-watching life that the game turned out to be the most epic UVA hoops win I've ever watched, and I offer it to you below in honor of the greatest Hoo I ever did know. Sean Singletary, Number 44, here's to you. Wahoowah.

So my roommates went out to bars and after about 5 minutes of talking to myself and screaming at the TV, I decided I needed to get my thoughts down on paper or risk losing my sanity to UVA basketball. What follows is my running account of the game, seen through my eyes from my couch in Stamford, CT. Enjoy, boys, and polish up those dancin' shoes! A classic win, the best I've ever seen!

February 1, 2007

9:22 Following a huge Sean Singletary 3 – during which I ran out of the room with my fist in the air in anticipation of the make while the ball was still in flight – I decide to keep a running diary of tonight's game against Dook, because talking to myself is going to get old real fast. Wait. Already did.

9:24 ESPN cameras find a great sign: "American Express: My Life, My Card, My Refs." $35,000 a year goes a long way.

9:26 A bogus bank shot – which was clearly not called – by Paulus prompts the following comment from Mike Patrick. "That's the mark of a great player." Even without Vitale the commentary is nauseating. This is of course followed by Jason Cain missing a dunk. J.C. may be my homeboy, but things are not looking good.

My analysis of the early-going: Frenetic pace. The Hoos are pumped, but maybe too pumped. We need some of these shots to start going in and we'll be okay.

9:27 Cain stuffs a dunk over McRoberts, who comes right down on the other end with a runner, and one. I hate Dook.

9:31 ESPN reminds me to tune in to its three-hour Super Bowl edition of NFL Countdown on Sunday. Three hours? THREE HOURS? How many gallons does Chris Berman sweat in three hours? And how does Micheal Irvin last three hours without his crack pipe? Honestly, does anyone need three hours of these guys?

9:33 Doris Roberts chimes in with her first useless tidbit of the night, describing Gerald Henderson's athletic induced asthma. Is it wrong that I want to see Gerald Henderson go into an asthmatic spaz session at center court? Come on Coach K, leave him in!

9:34 Big shot by Sean followed by great D – let's close the gap. Reynolds can't seem to get anything to fall early. Unbelievable.

9:38 HOW MANY IN-AND-OUTS ARE WE GONNA HAVE? Now we're down 11, this ain't good

Gotta love how ESPN slurps the NFL all year but still tries to play it off like there's no such thing as football with the "Sundays are for bowling" ads. Besides, won't I miss hour 6 of the 12 hour Super Bowl pregame show if I tune in to the Denny's PBA Tour?

Says Carl Ravech, "Everyone knows what Thursday means – we're throwing down at the half." Really? Everyone knows? I didn't know. Can someone help me out here?

9:44 Too many easy buckets for the Pukies, we could be in trouble. Nice bailout by the ref on a blocking call against the Poo Devils for a change.

9:45 Huge Diane 3 (Huh-Yuge, as Mike and the Mad Dog would say). What a dish by Sean. Stay, Sean, Stay!

ESPN Just showed the replay of the Clemson Comeback. Did that really happen? Really? Seriously?

2 minutes to go in the half, this one's getting away from us. We need a bucket.

9:48 Great sell by Sean on the McRoberts foul. The kid does it all! Stay, Sean, Stay!

Lars hits a free throw, (***gratuitous joke about girl we knew who had relations with Lars, the Lithuanian Nightmare***). Should have been our ball out of bounds off the miss. I hate Dook. Did I mention this already? Great D to end the half, and we're down 7.

9:53 Yes, halftime! I get to find out what "Throwin' it down on Thursday" is. Finally, I get to be in the loop!

10:10 Great halftime phone call to the RossMan. "It's great that 2,000 kids couldn't get in, but who are these other 8,000 assholes that didn't request a ticket?" I love you, Rich.

Diane sinks a 2 to open the half, and we're underway.

Unfortunately, my halftime conversation with Rich prevented me from refilling my Jack. Keep in mind I'm watching the game by myself. Come on, TV timeout!

10:11 Mamade! (I'd elaborate, but that's all I have written down)

10:13 UVA gets hosed on a BLATANT intentional foul no-call. Did I say I hate Dook? J.R. sinks em and the crowd is back into it. DE-FENSE! YES!

Mike Patrick just said, "Tunji Saroye just got a facial" (on a Singletary pass that he just was absolutely unprepared to catch). I still don't understand who Tunji took a facial from to stay on our team.

10:14 One of my favorite TV sports moments, the clearly audible student, "Buullllllllshiit, Buuuuuulllllllshiit!" chant. The booth can't censor it and the announcers have to pretend like they don't notice. Live TV ladies and gentlemen!

10:15 Seriously, can I get a TV timeout? Oh, there it is. Thanks.

10:18 Aaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnndddddd we're back! With nuts! And just because I bit this idea off of Simmons, "This is ouuuurrrrr couuuunnntry!"

10:19 J.R. misses and we lose the ball. The nuts might have to go back, I'm giving it one more possession. A.J. for 3 – brick. Sean is short on the jumper – put the nuts away already!

10:22 Things are getting sloppy. Maybe if I eat the nuts… Yes! J.R.! And Dook wants to talk it over.

10:23 We're halfway through the second half and there still hasn't been any sign of the Doris Roberts sideline b.s. about how great Coach K is at sucking dick – I mean, leading his players through adversity. Hey, it's a tough life trolling for pussy at Dook when you're trolling among trolls.

10:28 HUH-YUGE THREE, J.R.!!! We're down 1, we need to chill out and play D. Commercial break. Oh God.

10:31 Why do they do these "30 at 30" things? Show me live basketball, damn it!

10:34 We're spending too much energy playing from behind. We can't miss second chances and then let them score. Sean is on the bench, oh Christ, let us stay in this thing. Wasn't a long break, only one sip of Jack and he's back!

10:36 Classic Duke: A sure shot clock violation turns into a tip-in 2, followed by McRoberts whining for a jump ball on a blatant foul. Do I have to say it again? Eh, why not – I hate Dook.

10:38 So, Nike's new "Second Coming" commercial begs the question, does anyone in the NBA not wear Nikes? Can we just change the Logoman to a Swoosh and be done with it?

10:39 Okay, we're down 3, let's get a basket. NASTY screen by Cain - Singler=Wile E. Coyote full-speed into painted tunnel on mountainside. J.R. hits three huge free throws and we're tied! JPJ, if you hate Dook STAND UP!

10:41 Naturally Duke hits a quick 2 and 3, and we have no answer. Don't let it slip away now…

10:44 Offensive foul! Some guy called Lance Thomas has fouled out for Dook with 4:57 left in the ballgame.

10:45 J.R. goes down with a cramp and Dook gets 3 free ones. Unreal.

10:47 McRoberts, and one. Trouble. Can one game drive one man to alcoholism? The limits are being tested.

10:50 J.R. clearly called that bank, and it's 59-53. Mamade steal! And why not? I hate Dook. J.R. hits 2 free throws and it's 59-55.

10:54 Our ball! Time out UVA, and I think I just sack-tapped myself celebrating the turnover. Damn, right in the babymaker. I need more Jack!

10:55 ESPN shows the replay of Clemson-Duke. All together now… I HATE DOOK! J.R. goes to the line, 2 more free throws and it's 61-57. DE-FENSE!!

With 1:34 to go, its UVA ball. Can I overemphasize how much we need a hoop? Coach K doesn't like the foul – Well we don't like you, Ferret! (For the Rossman). J.R. at the line again… 2-for-2, 61-59, is he clutch or what? Seriously, I really might stroke out.

U-V-A! (Clap) U-V-A! (Clap)


11:01 55.2 seconds left, Coach K wants time, and the diary might have to rest for the last minute of regulation. The running journal has kept me surprisingly calm – well, either that or the Jack. But fuck it, Go Hoos! IF YOU HATE DUKE STAND UP! (Right on cue, the students at JPJ start the "Stand Up!" chant).

11:03 Here we go.

(Moments later) Oh my God! Good D by Cain? Lucky miss? WHO CARES, IT'S OVERTIME, BABY! I'm out of breath – I literally might pass out, and there's nobody here to take care of me. The phone rang during Dook's final possession (the girlfriend, naturally) and I almost threw up. I'd honestly do Sean Singletary right now (Maybe I should have kept that between me and the diary).

11:07 We win the OT tip. It's nothin'-nothin,' let's go!

11:09 Cain fouls out, I might pass out. Who's gonna board for us? Apparently a white guy named Pettinella. Paulus at the line for 2… Tie game, Reynolds is cramped up again. Somebody fix it NOW!

11:11 Offensive board, MAMADE! Pettinella foul and McRoberts hits 2 of 2 from the line. Somebody just punch me in the face.

11:12 NOW some guy named Lance Thomas fouls out. At least Mike Patrick is getting paid for keeping me up to date.

11:14 Holy shit, this guy (Pettinella) shoots free throws like Chris Dudley on acid.

11:15 Wow, I thought that Paulus three was down. T-O Lei-tao. Huge possession coming up, let's get J.R. back in there!

11:16 Patrick finally acknowledges that UVA's play is no fluke. I'm sure Vitale would have made the same remark.

11:17 Oh no, Mamade! Henderson to the line, come on asthma attack! Yes, he bricks the second, tie game with 1:46 to go! Sean follows with an "Oh Shit" airball, but Lars plays great D on the other end. Yes, Lars. What? Seriously, Lars! (***more gratuitous jokes at the same girl's expense***). J.R. is in pain again. Not good, Dook ball, less than a minute to go.

11:20 Coach K calls time with :08 on the shot clock, I'm out of Jack and I want my mommy. J.R. is done, oy.

11:22 UVA can hold for the last shot, somebody bring me a cold compress. I'm actually surprisingly calm, considering that I'm writing to myself, talking to myself, and watching by myself. Oh, Jack, you're truly a great friend. I'm gonna leave for the last possession, stay tuned….

11:27 SEAN! FROM HIS ASS! ARE YOU KIDDING? I just had an aneurysm all over my living room. I feel like I just ran a marathon. Get out the dancing shoes, boys! From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill we're gonna get drunk tonight! I can't say enough about that win, I have tears of joy in my eyes. Good night, Charlottesville, enjoy the celebration. One more time, I hate Dook.

But, damn, do I love those Wahoos.

Thanks for the memories, Sean. And if you're still with me, here's the video:

1 comment:

Danny Rubin said...

Great post, Steve.

I attribute Sunday's win over Clemson to Singletary being in the gym. The guy has a penchant for big shots, and he passed a little of that magic onto Sylven Landesberg. Great win. Season's lost, but we needed a bright spot.

Now onto the game against VT tomorrow night. Tech center Jeff Allen, by the way, suspended from the game for flicking off UMD fans last week. He should know better than to let a Twerp get in his head.

Go Hoos.