Flames’ seniors reflect
BITTERSWEET END TO COLLEGE CAREERS
March 18, 2008
Bush’s college career was over and he had worn a Flames’ uniform for the last time as Butler defeated UIC 66-50 in the Horizon League semifinals in Indianapolis on March 8.
“I’m just in a state of shock,” Bush said after the game. “I think as the ride goes on, I think it’s going to hit me and I’m going to break down.”
It was long winding road for the Class of ’08, particularly for Bush and Karl White Jr., who became the first four-year players in coach Jimmy Collins’ tenure to not play in the postseason.
Bush and White enduring some personal difficulties during their time at UIC, but both ended their careers on a fairly high note. They played key roles as the Flames finished 18-15 and finished tied for fourth place in the Horizon League after prognosticators said UIC would end up no higher than eighth in the conference.
Bush went through slumps and injuries, while White endured an academic disqualification that cost him half of his junior season. Bush ended his career with a 5.4 points per game average in 103 contests. He averaged 7.4 points per game as a senior, starting 19 contests. White also started 19 games and averaged 8.1 points per game as a senior and 5.7 points in his career.
“[The end] hasn’t really set in,” White said. “There’s a lot of mixed emotions, but I’m at peace. I played hard; I feel like I gave my all.”
White said he hopes to run some track for UIC later this spring.
The loss to Butler also signaled the end of Flames’ careers for forward Jermaine Dailey and small forward Ebenezer Noonoo. Dailey, a transfer from Three Rivers (Mo.) Community College, gave UIC two seasons of determined play in the post and specialized in rebounding and defense. His alley-oop dunks were crowd pleasers. Dailey averaged 5.6 points and 4.6 points per game as a senior after a 12-point, 10-rebound effort against Butler.
“I approach every game like it’s my last one,” Dailey said. “I just left everything out there on the floor.”
Collins said there was more to Dailey than his game on the court.
“The best thing about Jermaine is what he brought to the team,” Collins said. “He’s got a great personality; He brought a positive attitude and a pretty good work ethic.”
Noonoo started his Flames’ career as a walk-on in his sophomore year and provided the team with leadership and intangibles.
“There were a lot of ups and downs, but overall, the experience was good,” Noonoo said. “The best part was being a part of the family. My role was whatever I could do to help the team, to help to get pumped up for the game.”
Noonoo scored 15 points in 21 career games for UIC.
“These guys were more than just my teammates, they were my friends,” junior guard Josh Mayo said. “We’re going to miss them big-time.”
“We were blessed to have these seniors that we had,” Collins added. “They played well. That tells you something about the leadership we had from our seniors. In hindsight, I couldn’t have gotten any better people than I did. They were all unselfish. Those are kind of people you want in your program. When you’ve got good kids and good leadership; I think that’s what every coach strives for.”
HORIZON LEAGUE POSTSEASON: Butler won the Horizon League’s automatic bid for the NCAA tournament with a 70-55 victory over Cleveland State in the championship game in Indianapolis on March 11. Guard Mike Green, who was the tournament MVP, had 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs. Green joined teammates Matt Howard, Drew Streicher, Cleveland State forward J’Nathan Bullock and Valparaiso’s Shawn Huff on the All-Tournament Team.
On Sunday, Butler (29-3) was named a No. 7 seed in the East regional and will play South Alabama in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday in Birmingham, Ala. Cleveland State (21-12) learned that it was selected for the NIT and will travel to Dayton on Wednesday night for a first-round game. Finally, Valparaiso (21-13) was picked to represent the Horizon League in the inaugural College Basketball Invitational. The Crusaders will play at Washington on Wednesday night.
Wright State (21-10) and UIC (18-15) were the only Horizon League teams with winning records to not get a postseason berth.
2008 HORIZON LEAGUE TOURNAMENT
TUESDAY, MARCH 4 FIRST ROUND
#3 Wright State 60, #10 Detroit 37
#6 Valparaiso 75, #7 Green Bay 67
#4 UIC 70, #9 Youngstown State 59
#8 Loyola 57, #5 Milwaukee 51
FRIDAY, MARCH 7 SECOND ROUND (at Butler)
#6 Valparaiso (20-12) 72, #3 Wright State 67
#4 UIC 60, #8 Loyola 49
SATURDAY, MARCH 8 SEMIFINALS (at Butler)
#2 Cleveland State 78, #6 Valparaiso 73
#1 Butler 66, #4 UIC 50
TUESDAY, MARCH 11 CHAMPIONSHIP
#1 Butler 70, #2 Cleveland State 55