Saturday, February 23, 2008

On the Bright Side: Drake at Butler

Pat Forde sums up the week darn well:

INDIANAPOLIS -- Steve Miller once sang that you've got to go through hell before you get to heaven. Now I know what he meant.

I spent the week wading through the Kelvin Sampson swamp at Indiana. Sans hazmat suit.

Then, at week's end, I drove up to Hinkle Fieldhouse. Metaphorically apt, a Friday of sleet had given way to a Saturday of sunshine. When I got out of the car at Butler University, chimes were ringing. I think I might have heard angels singing, too.

I went inside the massive old basketball cathedral, where the late-afternoon sun was slanting through the windows. Oscar Robertson won state titles here. More recently, Greg Oden won regional titles here. Most famously, Bobby Plump capped the Milan Miracle here -- and was re-enacted here by Jimmy Chitwood in "Hoosiers."

This day, the assignment was to cover Drake beating Butler 71-64 in the BracketBusters marquee game. To sum up the experience in a word: Hallelujah.

The Bulldogs Squared constituted religious ecstasy for a scandal-scarred college basketball fan. Two very good teams playing a great game in a hoops shrine, with plenty to feel reassured about on either side.

Such as three former walk-ons in the starting lineups for two ranked teams: Adam Emmenecker and Jonathan Cox of Drake, and Drew Streicher of Butler. Such as nobody thinking about turning pro after his freshman season.

Such as four Drake starters packing GPAs of 3.0 or better, led by senior guard Emmenecker and his 3.97. His transcript contains one B and four majors: management, finance, business and entrepreneurial management.

Such as Butler countering with four starters who have earned league or school academic honors, led by senior forward Streicher. He majors in chemistry on his way to med school. . . .

If Emmenecker is the soul of the Bulldogs, sophomore guard Josh Young is their star. The sweet-shooting Oklahoman went for 25 on Butler, icing the game with three free throws with 30 seconds left. He leads Drake in scoring at 16.2 ppg, another big-time performer most college scouts never saw coming.

Young said he had 36 Division I scholarship offers. (His dad, Rick, puts the number at 29.) But none of them was from the Big 12 or any other BCS conference schools.

"My parents went to Oklahoma State," Young said. "That's where I saw myself playing."

The Cowboys didn't share that vision. So Young's parents, sticklers for academics, helped point him to Drake. He's a slacker compared with Emmenecker, toting a mere double major in business management and marketing. . . .

It was nice Saturday for a die-hard college hoops fan who spent all week on Kelvin Sampson watch. To someone coming out of that hell, Drake delivered in heavenly fashion.

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