The last few days have been pretty special for me. Working for the basketball team has been an unbelievable experience. I've gotten to meet people, see places, and do things not a lot of kids have been able to do. Being a manager is definitely not a glorious position and it can be very hard at times in the middle of the season to surmise the energy to go to practice another day after class. However, when it is all said and done, it's been an awesome four years. It was pretty cool to get interviewed by the Media on Friday and great to have my family in town for the game and to be presented with a new mop by Coach Stallings autographed by the team (thanks to Jeff Lockridge for the photo).
There was one thing this day was missing though and that was one of my best friends and my classmate John Jenkins. If John had been back for his senior year, this would have been his day too, a day to celebrate one of the best players in Commodore history. The only reason I made the Channel 4 News or The Tennessean is because John left me behind as the only senior, so I had to pay him back somehow. Just because John went off to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA, doesn't mean he shouldn't have a chance to be celebrated by the fans. So underneath my team polo, I wore a John Jenkins Hawks T-Shirt and pulled the polo off during the ceremony because I wanted to make John a part of this in someway. I thought wearing that would be the best way to include him in the ceremony without him actually being there in person (though his family was there).
John has meant a lot to me over the years. We met back in country music class as freshmen. After one of the listening quizzes, John tapped me on the shoulder to ask what the answer was to a few different questions cause he wanted to know if he go them right (unfortunately he didn't because despite being from Nashville, country music isn't John's type of thing). After that day in country music, was my first day attending practice and John and I talked for awhile after. Then we started playing video games, shooting around after practice, and hanging out a lot. His and Wes Tate's dorm room was like a second home for me freshman year, I was there so much.
I think the reasons me and John became so close are two-fold. I think the first reason is cause I am not really into status or who John was, I am going to be myself in any circumstance and I think he respected that about me. A lot of people try to impress him because of who he is, but I was always the same person whether around John or anyone else and I didn't treat him like a God of some sort. A good example of this is at campus parties. John was known across campus for his presence at parties, or lack thereof. John has never had alcohol in his life, and when we went out John always stood in the corner or against the wall watching the happenings around him with his polo buttoned all the way to the top. Most people couldn't get away with standing against the wall at a party, but because of John's status there would always be people coming and going out of the corner. Unfortunately, some of the time there were more drunken frat guys coming to say how great he was then cute girls, but those are the breaks sometimes. He appreciated that I wasn't one of those guys who sucked up to him at parties.
John is also very down to earth, so he liked to do things with "regular (non-athlete)" students. For example, the day after the team lost to Murray State in the NCAA's our freshman year, John came back and played football with a me and a bunch of my hallmates for 2 hours. It was a blast, then the next day we all played pick-up in Memorial. It was a blast for all of us and we did it a couple more times throughout the year. John also called my cousin when she was in the hospital for a stomach infection and never turned down a photo or autograph opportunity from anyone.
The second reason I think we became good friends is cause we both love basketball. I'm a total basketball junkie, I can recite random facts and stats about the NBA, and just know a lot about basketball history, the NBA, etc. John is also a basketball junkie, always watching film or working out to better himself. We both had a mutual respect for the passion and knowledge the other had for the game. John was the hardest worker I had ever seen in my life. He was completely and totally focused on the task at hand at all times, and wanted to gain every edge imaginable.
He would be in the gym all hours of the night, working out with anybody and everybody who would rebound for him. Sometimes it was Sam Ferry (our former head manager, now the Director of Basketball Operations at Monmouth), sometimes myself, sometimes Rob Cross (our current head manager), sometimes his high school coach Seth Massey, sometimes with our coaching staff, and then sometimes with his personal trainer Drew Hanlen.
Drew owns and operates Pure Sweat Basketball, a training company he started a few years ago, and is an absolutely brilliant basketball mind. His clients include John, David Lee, Bradley Beal, and Kim English among others. John epitomizes the philosophy Drew tries to instill in his clients "It's not the amount of hours you spend in the gym, it's how you spend the hours you are in the gym". John didn't need to spend 3 hours on a workout because he goes so hard in each one that he gets more out of a 20 minute workout than most guys get in an hour. He is so focused, and his reps are the same each and every time, that it is hard not to be amazed when watching him work out cause he never seems to get tired. At the end of the year, the coaches had to tell him to stay off his feet cause he was working too hard.
So to summarize this long and lengthy tribute to John, he is a special kid from a great family. I am honored to call him a friend, and I wanted to make him a part of my senior day because it should have been his senior day. He poured his heart and soul into the basketball program every single day, and took pride in putting on the Commodore uniform whether it be before practice or a game. It meant a lot to him to play for this program and it's unfortunate the fans never had a chance to formally thank him for his accomplishments. So that's why I wore my Jenkins jersey yesterday, he will always be my classmate.