Monday night the men's basketball team held its annual awards banquet at the Alumni Memorial Union. Among the fanfare the season highlight reel, the coaches' awards to the players and of a final farewell to the departing seniors was special guest speaker Seth Davis. Davis, a staff writer for Sports Illustrated and also a contributor to CBS Sports during the NCAA tournament coverage, recounted stories of Marquette figures Al McGuire and Rick Majerus, and took a couple good-natured shots at current players and coaches before offering advice to the players.
Even though Davis well known in the world of sports, Tom Crean's the invitation to speak during the banquet was a first for him. "I feel a little like a freshman on the first day of practice…I might be a little sore in the morning," Davis joked.
Davis said that he felt honored to be asked to his first official speaking engagement by a person that he considers a good friend. "I have been thinking about it for a couple of weeks, and I can't think of a place Id rather be, or a person I'd rather do it for than Tom Crean," he said.
He told the story of how he met Crean at a Nike camp held in Indianapolis while Crean was still an assistant as Michigan State. "We were sitting there and he started chatting me up. I was flattered that he wanted to hear my thought and perspectives on things," said Davis.
During Michigan State's run to the National Championship in 2000, Crean gave the young journalist a chance to spend a night with the Spartan players and coaches while they broke down film prior to the Final Four. He appreciates what Crean did for him and is especially glad that he got the chance to know Crean personally. "When Marquette hired Tom Crean it just seemed like such a perfect fit and I am so happy for him and for you all that it worked out."
Davis emphasized that one of the things he likes most about his profession is "meeting cool and interesting people." He certainly took advantage of this when, while still a student at Duke, he talked to Al McGuire for the first time. Al had come into town to do the game as a broadcaster. Seth introduced himself and Al told him to take a seat and proceeded to identify for him the Duke players who were warming up in front of them. A stunned Seth Davis then informed Al that the men he was asking about were Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill, two players who had been to the Final Four in the previous years. Davis was stunned to say the least, not because of who he was talking to, rather because NBC's number one analyst still wanted help with spelling their names.
As one of his first trips as a member of Sports Illustrated Davis was sent to interview Utah coach Rick Majerus.
He met Rick after one of his practices and because of a time constraint for Rick, the interview took place in the car. As the interview continued from the car ride into Majerus' hotel room where he proceeds to undress in front of Davis, until he is interviewing a completely naked Utah basketball coach. While it somewhat flustered the young SI reporter, it does not seem to phase Rick as he continues to give answers from the shower. "There is no point to this story the only thing to be learned is that if you work for SI, you will eventually interview a naked man, that's all I know," Davis laughed.
Davis then turned his address toward the players and young athletes in the room. He offered advice that included inspirational phrases that he remembered hearing at different points in his life and that proved true enough to be passed on to others.
He said, "If you chase two rabbits you're not going to catch either one." He went on to admit that he was originally apprehensive about offering this advice because, "I thought that Steve Novak might use it to tell coach that he shouldn't play any defense!" Novak took this in stride however even joking later that he might not have earned his Free Throw Proficiency Award if it would have required defense.
Davis turned to a phrase that had been used by Mike Krzyzewski to relax his players, "play like you're playing with house money." He said as the team goes to the Big East next season "you're going to be young, you're losing some guys, you're not supposed to do anything…you're not supposed to make the tournament. I think you're playing with "house money." He stated that this could be the best situation for a team like Marquette and, "I think that you guys are going to do great."
Davis recommended that the players look to their future and set high goals for themselves, even higher than making the NBA. He pointed to great sports figures such as John Wooden, Magic Johnson, and Arthur Ashe as people that the players should look to as models for success, not only on the court beyond it as well.
Finally, Davis stressed that the value of learning how to be a good teammate will be one of the most "amazing, unique and important skills" that they can walk away with. He asserted that he has no doubt, "when you go out into the workforce you will be great teammates."
"What you have learned here will carry you a long way, " he added.
Davis admitted that he did not feel old enough to stand up and preach to the young players in front of him, but nonetheless he offered some great advice. This may have been Davis' first time speaking at a public event, but by the way Davis presented his great advice to the crowd in attendance, it will not be his last.
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