“Life comes down to few short opportunities. Small opportunities. You may not even know that they’re there. This is one of them.”
— Yale head coach James Jones
As the final seconds ticked off of the game clock in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, I was overcome with disappointment. My collegiate career had come to a close, an unbelievable comeback attempt was stymied by Duke and a historic season was halted. Upon arrival in New Haven, I was forced to grapple with the competing feelings of pride and disappointment. Over the course of the past week, I have had the chance to put these feelings into context of my entire college experience.
After my four years of collegiate basketball, I’m persuaded that success and peaceful unity go hand-in-hand. That there is a greater good to which each one of us has a very real and tangible responsibility. And that without an understanding of that responsibility to not only our own good but to the good of our society (in my case, my team), we are lost.
Additionally, without sincere belief in God and the greater good, which is much bigger than my own self, these two entities cannot be intertwined. Knowing that if you make the hard decisions, if you do what may be uncool or lame, and dedicate yourself to the greater good, you will prosper. Altogether, it seems abundantly clear, having been fortunate enough to see what I have in my last four years of basketball, that I am a living, breathing product not of my desires, fears or environment, but of a will and dedication to focus and detail toward those around me.
Many people believe that success is glamorous and attractive, and in many cases it is. The NCAA Tournament was full of high-major amenities, lots of media attention and national stardom (just Google “Makai Mason”). But from my experience, with success I have found the opposite to be true.
People don’t know about the 6:30 a.m. practices, the long film sessions, early morning conditioning — the bumps, the bruises, the ice baths, the rehab or the grind that we’ve had to endure from September to March. These experiences have led me to believe there is no great reward for which one must not sacrifice immensely.
By the same token, the sacrifices we give pale in comparison to the gifts we are able to receive through the trouble of our sacrifices. It is very easy to give into our fears, hatreds, worries, doubts, isolation or shame, and this team has had to deal with a fair share of these. Understandably, all of these negative forces want you to run from responsibility — take the easy way out, lay down and quit. After this year, I can confidently say that for me, my teammates and my coaches, success has been a synonym for focus, for making a conscious decision about what to focus on and allowing nothing to stop us from dedicating ourselves to our craft.
Today, I am basking in the reflected glory of my teammates. From top to bottom, I have been thoroughly impressed with each and every one of them both on and off the court. Whether it was time spent in the locker room, grueling road trips to Ithaca or the post-win air guitar solos to “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake, every moment spent with my teammates was memorable.
Statistics can’t quantify the impact that these moments have had on this team and on my life. Thank you Eric “E” Anderson, Alex “AC” Copeland, Anthony “Tony” Dallier, Sam “The Franchise” Downey, A.J. “Birdman” Edwards, Khaliq “Liq” Ghani, Matt Greene, Eli Lininger, Makai “Money” Mason, Trey “Bobby Ray” Phills, Blake “Ba-La-Kae” Reynolds, Landon “Lando” Russell, Thomas “Take His Shoes” Ryan, Justin “POY” Sears and Nick “Tex” Victor.
I love y’all, we made history.
Brandon Sherrod is a senior in Pierson College. He was a starting forward for the Yale men’s basketball team during its 2016 NCAA Tournament run.