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Zach Bohannon - The longest 15 seconds of my life

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Two days after Wisconsin's season-ending loss to Syracuse in the "Sweet 16," an email from junior Zach Bohannon showed up in my inbox.

Bohannon, who redshirted in 2011-12 after transferring to Wisconsin from Air Force, was unable to travel with the team due to NCAA transfer rules. Instead he holed up in the UW men's basketball office at the Kohl Center and watched the season come to an end just like the rest of us.

However, unlike the rest of us, Zach's therapy to deal with the loss was to write about it. This is what he sent me.


The Longest 15 Seconds of My Life
By Zach Bohannon

Just over 15 seconds remained on the clock...

Wisconsin just got the ball back, down 63-64, and it was in none other than Jordan Taylor's hands.  As I sat watching the game from the basketball offices back at the Kohl Center, I could not help but think about what a picturesque scene this truly was.  Wisconsin was in the Sweet 16, playing against a team that was ranked #1 in the nation for a good majority of the year and we had the final shot to win it.  Coach Ryan, who strategically chose not to use his final timeout after we regained possession, more importantly trusted that Jordan would be able to make a play and send us into the next round.  Who better would you want with the ball in that situation anyways?

120322MBB-3107-11.jpgLess than 13 seconds remained on the clock...

Jordan dribbled the ball up across the half court line and the top two defenders in Syracuse's ferocious 2-3 zone defense played a game of cat and mouse with him.  Wisconsin had the play "Horns" called, which is two high ball screens at each side of the lane.  This action was made famous by two-time NBA champion coach Chuck Daly, who coined the term in the 1980's.  The play was exploited by Syracuse due to their great length and athleticism.  However, Jordan tried to make a play anyways, something that Wisconsin fans saw countless times throughout his stellar career, but nothing was there.  He retreat dribbled back to half court, a maneuver that has been drilled into his head religiously the past four seasons by Coach Ryan when you are under pressure.  Time was running out and Jordan knew it, but still somehow kept his cool.

Less than 10 seconds remained on the clock...

Jordan took a look up at the clock and saw it was now or never to make something happen.  He dialed in and dribbled right back at the two Syracuse guards, putting both of them on their heels.  He drew a double team and whipped a right-handed pass around the left side of the top defender.  The pass landed in Jordan's senior teammate hands of Rob Wilson.  This was typical Jordan, knowing when to give up the ball when he had to.  He became famous for this throughout his marvelous career as well, while along the way, shattering the NCAA's assist to turnover record.  This was the action that made Jordan such a great player at Wisconsin, he knew when to take over a game but more importantly, he knew when it was time to make his teammates better.  This was one of those.

Less than 7 seconds remained on the clock...

As the ball bounced to the floor and Rob caught a perfect pass from Jordan, he as well was immediately double teamed.  Rob tried to pump fake to shake one of the defenders off of him, but it was to no avail.  He was in a similar situation as Jordan was just in and knew nothing was there, so he kicked it back out to the point guard.  

Less than 5 seconds remained on the clock...

Jordan received the bounce pass and took one right handed dribble in order to gather some momentum to get up a decent look from three.  He found an opening and it was a miracle that he even got up a decent look.  The infinitesimal gap he found to shoot was closed with not one, but two Syracuse defenders.  However, Jordan still got the shot off cleanly with 3.3 seconds left, a smart play because he gave our team just enough time to have an opportunity for an offensive rebound and a put back to win.  No one was thinking about that at the time though.  As the shot was released, for that one second the ball was in the air, the world stopped spinning and everyone was focused on the spinning orange leather globe.  Everyone was on their feet praying for two different outcomes.  As I use to say when I was younger, the "good guys" (Badgers) were praying for only one more basket.  The "bad guys" (Syracuse) were praying for one final miss.  With exactly two seconds left, the shot fell inches short.  But the season was not quite over yet.

Less than 2 seconds remained on the clock...

The one Badger who always found a way to get his hands in on the action throughout the year, found a way to do it again.  Mike Bruesewitz "bruised" his way to another rebound and tapped it just enough to keep it alive, a play he had done countless times as well in the season.  The ball was knocked to the floor with exactly one and a half seconds left and it was found in the hands of Josh Gasser, a player who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, had done it once again.  Realizing that time was about to expire, he threw up a desperation one handed fade away shot as the horn sounded and it hit nothing.  Nothing, but air.

No time remained on the clock...

The game was officially over.  The scoreboard's red light was on, no more time was left, no fouls had been called, and nothing was reviewable.  The final 15 seconds of Wisconsin's year had come to a halt, but more sadly, we witnessed the final game of two more great Badgers, Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson.  These excellent ambassadors of not only the basketball program, but of the University of Wisconsin as a whole, just like that had both finished up their careers in this last play.  Rob immediately bent down and put his hands on his knees, while Jordan put his jersey over his face.  It was all over.  The "good guys" did not win.  Jordan and Rob did not get their one shining moment like they had dreamed of since they were little kids shooting hoops in their backyard and on the playground.  Both of their four year college windows were over.  In a blink of an eye, their careers were done.

The clock is ticking...

That is the magical thing about sports.  The "good guys" do not always come out on top, even if they played their best and up to their potential.  It is a mysterious phenomenon to grasp; that is, hard work does not always lead to success.  One works his entire life to have that one golden opportunity, but it still sometimes is not enough.  Through all of this however, we are forgetting to mention the hundreds of thousands of seconds that led to those final 15 seconds of their careers.  Years down the road, this play will be meaningless.  Sure we will remember that Wisconsin lost to Syracuse in the Sweet 16, but more importantly, we will remember the great lessons that these two fine seniors had shown throughout their careers.  

Taylor_Wilson_Indiana_BTT_2011-12.jpgLet's start with Rob.  I do not think you can come up with a better word for his career than perseverance.  Rob exhibited this trait throughout his career, and I am not only talking about on the court, but in the classroom as well.  Rob is going to be the first college graduate in his family when he gets his degree this May.  He overcame that great barrier, which should be applauded on its own.  However, Rob did even more.  On the court, Rob struggled throughout his career to get consistent minutes.  His career was a roller coaster, with many highs and lows.  His senior season in particular, he played sporadic minutes up until the second half of the Big Ten season, until finally he had taken advantage of his opportunity.  The great thing that the average fan did not see was the hard work and commitment he showed through the tough times.  Rob never pouted or got upset for a long period of time, he would be mad initially, but he moved on.  He just prayed for one more opportunity to show what he really could do and what he believed in himself to be able to do.  He persevered until finally he solidified his minutes and had a huge role on the team.  To the average fan, Rob came out of nowhere and scored 30 points, along with tying a Wisconsin record of 7 three's, in a big win over Indiana in the conference tournament.  However, the average fan did not see the thousands of shots and extra sessions in the gym through his difficult times.  In regards to his final play, just the fact that Rob was in the game and in a position to make a play against #1 seeded Syracuse was a feat by itself, but showed how much he grew as a person throughout his career.  He kept getting better and his hard work was rewarded.  In the end, his perseverance paid off.

Now time to talk about Jordan.  The one obvious word that defines his career and who he was is leader.  As Coach Ryan often jokes, Jordan could possibly be "the future Governor."  That's a pretty strong statement coming from your head coach, but I honestly think that is an understatement on just quite how great of a leader he truly is.  His leadership skills put him second to none and could easily make him the President if he wanted to!  Jordan will be one of the greatest leaders to come out of the University of Wisconsin, ever.  He is that great with people, but that is not what makes him special.  It is his ability to get people to not only listen to him, but to follow him as well.  A lot of people, including most sports writers, said that the year that Jordan had this year was a "down year" compared to what he accomplished last year and he was no longer "a top five point guard in the country."  That kind of statement is just mind boggling.  He went from a Sweet 16 team, losing three starters, including one to the NBA, came back the following year as a senior, with a bunch of "no names", and accomplished the same, if not more.  He turned these "no names" to household names in the mere matter of months.  He led the team to not only a point away from an Elite Eight game, but he won a game in the conference tournament, something Wisconsin had not done the previous three years, and he was only one game out of the conference title race.  Not bad for a senior point guard that's team was predicted to finish 7th in the Big Ten this year.  He single handedly willed his team this year from start to finish, and took more burdens on himself than any single person deserves.  But that's what leaders do, they take the blame when the going gets rough, and praises their teammates when their on a high.  That's what Jordan did, time and time again throughout the year.  It was an honor to be in his locker room and on the court, along with Rob, this season.     

As I sat down to write this the morning after the game, coincidentally the basketball team was just landing in Madison and coming back from Boston.  I could not help but think of the greater implications of the picturesque scene that they came back to.  Jordan and Rob had started their next stage of their lives, the ending of one thing led to the beginning of another for them.  However, someone, somewhere decided to still mourn.  The day was overcast with a slight rain that happened throughout the day.  We never did see the sun that day, the big orange thing, a metaphor for the mascot of Syracuse, was off hiding.  They knew that the career of two great young men had just come to a close.  They did not want to be anywhere near Madison, and someone greater than us all decided to mourn as well.

As a sports fan, eventually you will forget about great games, great plays or even great players.  However, the one thing you will not forget will be the players who touched your life emotionally, either directly or indirectly.  If each one of us could take these lessons and learn from them like we did from these two great seniors, think about how better off we would be.  I hope that each one of you prepare for your "one shining moment" with every ounce of energy you have.  Don't ever give up on that vision either, because the struggle will be worth it.  Now what are you waiting for?!  Your time is limited, and the clock is ticking...

On, Wisconsin!

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