Senior Day is like any other game – except it's not. It's a very special day, and one that seniors know they are going to remember 30 years from now. There's a certain aura about it, and an anxious feeling. As a senior, in the days leading up to the game, you are asked questions about the past four years, you film a video thanking everyone and you can't help but realize it's going to be the last time you'll be running out on the Kohl Center floor with your teammates who have been like your brothers. It's impossible to not get nostalgic. I remember a part of me was like, wait, is this really it? (Yes it is Brett, you were there 5 years, it was time to go already). I knew we were fortunate enough to have more postseason ball to play, but it was a pretty weird feeling realizing your years of Kohl Center home games were going to be over and you had limited time left as a college basketball player.
As a senior, I really just wanted to win. I knew a loss would be deflating to the special aspect of the day. But I know I also felt that I really wanted my fellow seniors (Jon, Keaton, Tim, Q and JP plus me equaled the senior Six Pack – yeah kind of lame, I know) to have a special day. When you progress through the program with a group of guys, and know the good times and the struggles they've gone through, you can't help but wish that day is special for them. Being an underclassman, you want to do everything you can to make the Senior Day great for your senior teammates.
All you can really do is cheer them on in the pre-game introductions and the post-game video, and play your butt off when you get a chance in the game. Getting to walk out on the floor before the game with my parents is really cool. When we go back in the locker room afterwards for one more time before the game, you direct those emotions into game mode – and I think the tribute actually gets everybody pumped up. If all goes well, Coach Ryan gives the seniors a chance to be taken out of the game towards the end and get an ovation from the crowd. That's a really special moment, and I know I'll always remember that feeling of getting a chance to wave to the crowd as I made my exit. The video tribute afterwards is an awesome way to close things out. The staff does a great job of putting together a special video that helps everyone reminisce about the great times over the past few years.
I normally prefer to tease my friends and make fun of them, but I guess I'll go away from that for a minute to tell you how I really feel about these two seniors:
I tried thinking back on if I've had a better teammate over the years than Rob Wilson. I really struggled to think of anyone I respected more. Through the ups and downs of his career, he's continued to be a great guy to have in the locker room and someone who hasn't given up on fighting to be on that floor. He's dealt with great adversity and even when he's gone through frustrating basketball times, he's continued to battle back and do the things necessary to help his team win. It would have been really easy for Rob to stop caring when things weren't going his way early in his career.
It's been awesome to watch him play so well, especially in the last few weeks. Everyone knew this is the kind of player he could become, and it's great to see him playing with such confidence and having fun on the floor. Knowing Rob, it's impossible to not root for him because of the positive impact he has on me and everyone around him. You know the kind of impact Rob has had on the program and with his teammates when you see how excited everyone is for his success.
There are players in the Big Ten that have gotten so many minutes over their four years, and opposing fans are sick of having to face them, that they can't believe they still have to play against them. I think Jordan has turned into one of those players that fans always say, "Jordan Taylor? Hasn't he been there like 8 years?" But it's still hard to believe this is the last chapter of his career – an incredible storybook career. Despite being the most talented, unselfish point guard and one of the best overall basketball players I've ever seen, Jordan Taylor is a winner. I think that's the best compliment you can give an athlete, and Jordan embodies that. Even if he wasn't blessed with the athletic ability and God-given talent, he would still be someone you'd pick to be on your side every time. His toughness is unrivaled.
The kid has played through more injuries than I've ever seen (him and Krabbenhoft). And he's incredibly competitive. Whenever you beat him in anything, you can't help but feel lucky you got away with one. His great unselfishness shows when he encourages his teammates when they're down and how excited he gets when his teammates make good plays.
Along with having a fun personality, these winning, gutsy, competitive, unselfish qualities are what make teammates follow Jordan's lead. It's easy for a lot of elite athletes to be prima donnas and act big-time. Jordan is the antithesis to that. He treats everyone with respect, and makes fans and everyone around the program feel like they're something special. It's easy to cheer for one of the best players in the country, but when you realize the countless things he does that show how much of a quality person and teammate he is, it makes you root that much harder. He and Rob are what Wisconsin Basketball is all about.
I know our coaching staff, as great as they are, will make sure everyone is focused on doing whatever is necessary to win the game on Senior Day. But if you get a chance, take a look over at them during the pre-game introductions or postgame video tribute. You may see some people getting emotional. I think this shows you how special this day is. For the people that have tried to do whatever they can over the past four years to make you the best you can be, to get emotional, shows how much everyone in the program cares and how proud they are of your accomplishments. And based on the accomplishments of these two seniors, there should be a lot of happy tears shed.