It was a joyous evening as coaches, players and fans together celebrated a season that was a feel-good story through and through. But it was also an emotional evening honoring the players and saying goodbye to the seniors. All three seniors were praised by head coach Mike Montgomery with very heartfelt sentiments. Julius Barnes was the first to the podium and spoke very honestly. He admitted that it was a tough adjustment at first sitting on the bench and learning, but he proclaimed with unwavering conviction that Stanford was the right choice for him. He thanked his teammates for all their support and their part in his growth, then pleaded with those underclassmen returning to savor every moment and appreciate the uniqueness of their Stanford basketball experience. Though Barnes admitted his aspirations to be playing in the NBA next year, he promised to be watching and supporting a team that he forecasts to be an exciting one. As he finished his remarks, tears flowed down many faces in the crowd, and the attendees sprung to their feet for a lengthy standing ovation. There was a palpable swell of emotion at that moment for fans who had universally loved Barnes throughout his career. More than just an amazing athletic talent, he had made great improvements each year of his career and always carried himself as a warm and welcoming member of the team and Stanford community.
Tyler Besecker had a lot of tough times at Stanford with illness and injury, and Montgomery noted that Stanford fans never got to see the real Tyler perform as a result of the setbacks that stunted his on-court maturation. So it was no surprise that Besecker came to the podium and echoed Barnes' sentiments about loving and thanking his teammates for all their support. He said that even at his toughest times, his teammates were sure to make him feel like a vital part of the Stanford basketball team.
Tunde Sobomehin came to the team as a manager, but finished as a player and spoke Sunday evening of that "lifelong dream." As Montgomery tells the story, Sobomehin first approached the coaches the summer of 2001 during the trip to Australia and pleaded his dream. But Montgomery has always felt at Stanford that the jersey should really mean something, and has been a proud symbol that must be deserved. During the 2001-02 season, Sobomehin wore a practice jersey through much of the season's workouts to help simulated defensive pressure, and it was his unrelenting effort and energy that won the coaches over. He was elevated to a walk-on spot on the roster for his final season, and at the podium this evening he was choked up with emotion about the experience. He beamed with pride that he had "earned" that jersey, and he encouraged his teammates to all shoot for their own dreams.
In the awards portion of the program, the team's leaders in top statistical categories were recognized:
The team awards as voted by the players came next:
Team Captains: Julius Barnes, Justin Davis and Joe Kirchofer
Most Inspirational Player: Tunde Sobomehin
Most Improved Player: Justin Davis and Matt Lottich
Best Defensive Player: Nick Robinson
Most Valuable Player: Julius Barnes
Roy Young Toughness* Award: Matt Lottich
* Named in honor of Tim Young's grandfather
The final award, which was the only one voted by the coaching staff, is meant to honor the player who has embodied everything that a coach wants in a player: talent, unselfishness, team ethic and coachability. The Howie Dallmar Coaches Award for this season was given to Josh Childress, which is rather remarkable given that he came to Stanford with the greatest hype of any player on the roster today. He should be the one with all the attitude and baggage, but quite to the contrary was all that the staff could have wanted as a player and person in this year of unmatched chemistry.
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