One Shining Moment

It wasn't played out on the stage of the NCAA Final Four, but for senior walkon Jonathan Curran, the minute of playing time he got in his last regular season home game as a Mountaineer will always stand out in his memory.

The sequence won't stick long in many other people's minds (even if it did appear on ESPN's Top Ten plays of the day), but for the senior walkon from Clarksburg, the buzzer beating shot against Syracuse will be one to treasure.

Head coach John Beilein inserted Curran into the game with just under a minute to go in the first half, and Curran promptly responded by helping run one of West Virginia's finest offensive possessions of the evening, which led to a short jumper by D'or Fischer with 31 seconds to go that cut the Orange lead to three points. After Syracuse missed a pair of shots on what figured to be their final possession, Tyrone Sally stole the ball from Jeremy McNeil and flicked it ahead of Curran, who was heading for the Mountaineer hoop.

"I caught up to it and turned, and McNamara kind of flew by me," Curran recounted afterward. "I let it go, and it went in, and the crowd erupted. It's a feeling you can't explain. It was all kind of overwhelming."

The shot cut WVU's deficit to one at the half, and in a perfect world would have propelled the Mountaineers to an upset victory. However, since that utopia doesn't exist, West Virginia fell short.

For our purposes, though, that shouldn't matter. Those last few seconds, with Curran hanging in the air and the crowd's anticipatory buzz swelling, are truly the moments that should be remembered, and treasured. While many fans continue to bemoan the real or imagined shortcomings of the 2003-04 Mountaineer basketball team, they miss the enjoyment of sequences like the one that played out as the clock ticked down in the first half Tuesday night.

Curran, who drew a great deal of praise from Beilein over the past couple of days for his value as a member of the team, was equally complimentary of his coach.

"I have such great respect for Coach Beilein and the coaching staff, for them to get me in the game like that shows they have the same respect for me," Curran noted

That two-way street of regard between coaches and player says a lot about Curran's value to the team, much of which occurs out of the public eye, both in practice and off the floor. And while some believe that a player's only usefulness is what he does on the court, Curran's ability to keep the team loose, and at the same time, energized, has been a valuable one.

"I try to come to practice and keep a lot of energy going, and in the huddle I try to keep everyone's heads up," Curran said of his role. "I know we're frustrated now, but if we can just get one thing to go right, and when that happens we're going to be o.k."

While Curran isn't likely to have a repeat of his one shining moment on the court, he still has the chance to boost his team toward an NIT bid. And if the Mountaineers do attain that goal, his part in it will be just as important as the points and rebounds his teammates recorded on the floor.

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