Students and FacStaff Face Off on Court, Charity Wins
“Vijay’s killing us out there,” lamented Julian Silver ’12, his hands on his hips in frustration. Wearing a red T-shirt drenched with sweat, the athletic senior gazed across Silloway Gymnasium at a man on the opposite bench, grey in hair, beard, and sweatpants alike.
“We knew they’d be a tough team,” Silver added. “They’re running us into the ground, we need to be tougher on defense. But the scoreboard’s up there.”
It was halftime of the Student vs. Faculty/Staff Basketball Game. The scoreboard read Students 24, FacStaff 13. It might seem that Silver, one of the student organizers of this fundraiser for SHOFCO and the Pakistan Flood Relief Initiative, was spouting hyperbole. But one only had to watch the first 20 minutes of play to know that the Students’ double-digit lead did not come easily.
“Momentum is about to shift,” prophesied William “Vijay” Pinch. The History Department Chair and the source of Silver’s woes, Pinch exuded a Zen-like calmness as he reclined in his chair on the sidelines. “And when the momentum shifts, the crowd’s gonna come to us.”
The faculty and staff came out with an infectious fire, scrapping in the paint and pushing the pace against their more agile pupils. No FacStaff player contributed to this effort more than Michael Roth. The University’s fearless President refused to back down on defense, pressing Jimmy Curtin ’12 in the backcourt following a steal. Roth then manned up in the paint against former ACB manager Peter Frank ’12, the irony of which cannot be ignored. When Roth’s tip-in failed to beat the buzzer, the crowd gasped exasperatedly along with him. Apparently it’s impossible not to root for the old-dogs-as-underdogs.
The FacStaff defense started off strong against the heavily-favored Students, holding them scoreless for the first 3:30 of the game. However, they were only able to build up a 2-0 lead in that time. Silver penetrated for a lay-up to tie things at two, before Frank and Drew Hudson ’12 went to work. The Students’ twin towers were smothering inside on defense and went to work on the block on offense, combining for their team’s next nine points on an 11-2 run that put the Students up seven.
Drew Black, head coach of the wrestling team, stopped the FacStaff bleeding, hitting a basket from midrange to cut the deficit to five about nine minutes into the first half. Silver and Pinch traded baskets to make it a 13-8 game, but the Students pulled away in the final minutes of the half, getting open looks on solid ball movement to build their 11-point halftime edge.
A matter of minutes after Pinch said the tide of the game would shift, the FacStaff attacked the Student zone defense with a barrage of midrange jumpers to narrow the score at 31-23 with 14:20 left in the game. At that point, Pinch decided to teach the Students a lesson in heart as he dove for not one but two loose balls on the same possession before absolutely rejecting Silver on a layup attempt just minutes later.
But the FacStaff comeback would not be the story of this game. With 10:40 remaining in the game, the crowd began to chant, “We want Kennedy! We want Kennedy!”
With the Students up 37-25 with 9:45 on the clock, the spectators got their wish as Kennedy Odede ’12 entered the game. The executive director of SHOFCO approached his play on the court in a manner befitting the pitch as he played right up on his man on defense and propelled the ball forward in bursts reminiscent of soccer dribbles.
Odede would have left the fans happy regardless of how well he played. This game was the culmination of his four years of hard work making SHOFCO part of the fabric of the Wesleyan community. That being said, the crowd was about to get its money’s worth.
After some cajoling from his teammates, Odede put up a shot. It was the same type of shot he had exhibited during warm-ups, a sort of two-armed push towards the basket while fading away and to his right. However, this time Odede was not only guarded, but also a good 20 feet away from the basket. Moreover, this shot refused to clang off the rim like this practice attempts. Instead, it hit the shooter’s square on a line and ricocheted between the rims and the backboard about a half dozen times before falling through. Odede ran down the court with his arms raised, and everyone in attendance rose to their feet. The 40-27 score was a complete afterthought as unadulterated joy rained down on the court in one voice.
The next few minutes were a blur, and the crowd gave Odede another appreciative roar when he gratefully exited the game on a high note with 6:24 remaining and his team up 40-30. Hudson returned to work, harassing the FacStaff defenders, hitting a jumper from the foul line, laying it in on an alley-oop, and pulling up from three to put the game out of reach with his own personal 7-2 run.
Pinch got back in on the action for the FacStaff, adjusting mid-air on a layup with just over three minutes remaining, igniting the final rally and ending the game on an 11-3 run that turned out to be too little, too late. The final score read Students 50, FacStaff 43, with everyone all smiles on both benches as they took away their own victories.
“We got the momentum, but we got it too late,” Pinch said. “We won the second half. We are the winners of the second half. I want that in The Argus. We won the second half.”
The FacStaff did outscore the Students in the final 20 minutes by a score of 30-26, not that the Students were letting this distract from the big picture.
When asked about the Students’ performance, Hudson simply said, “Both teams played hard, my man.”
“A lot of fun happened out there,” said Arya Alizadeh ’13, who displayed his leadership skills coaching the Student squad. “The faculty have some fantastic basketball players, as do we, and I think this was so much fun for everybody.”
“It was a great game, lots of fun,” Roth concurred, mindful of the reason we all gathered in Silloway on the day. “Hope we raised some money for a good cause.”
As it turned out, SHOFCO and the Pakistan Flood Relief Initiative raised $150.
“And we was robbed,” Roth added.