Michigan senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. and head coach John Beilein were in a car together heading to the airport in preparation to play Nebraska.
Walton turned to Beilein and told him that his team was going to Washington D.C. to win the Big Ten Tournament. Perhaps a lofty goal looking back at the situation. However, somehow, someway the Wolverines figured out the perfect recipe of winning basketball.
Walton made good on his guarantee to his head coach by capping off a magical run by defeating Wisconsin 71-56 to win the tournament. He was also named to the all-tournament team as well as the most outstanding player of the tournament. He had the belief that his team was prepared and, sure enough, it was.
"I felt like we were playing really good basketball and we have all the pieces that we need to be successful," Walton said of his promise. "We thought we could make a short run at this very point in time of the year. Like I said, I feel like we were clicking on all cylinders and we came out during the first game here, [everyone] got a sense of how good we could be and how talented we are at all five spots. I just have a high sense of belief in this group of guys."
It hasn't always been sunshine and roses with Walton during his career at U-M. Battling through numerous injuries, he has a motor that doesn't seem to ever stop no matter how bad it gets. Now that Walton has reached the pinnacle of success in his conference, he knows there's plenty of work still left to be done.
However, it doesn't mean he can't appreciate what he's been through and to let the moment of sweet victory sink in.
"It means a lot," Walton said. "This past summer I don't think I ever worked as hard as I did in my life. I wanted this so bad and I wanted everything that comes with winning so bad, I put myself through some tough times. Working hard as hard as possible and exhausting myself, being able to come through for my team that's all I really care about."