The 14th man: the end of the bench

Ross Condon

The time has finally come, and I am filled with conflicting emotion.

My last season of organized sports is underway … Something I never thought could ever happen to me as a kid, dribbling the ball in the driveway for hours into the dark until the neighbors finally told me to go to bed.

My last run has begun.

Here we go again with Villanova Basketball, going to play our first game of the ’06-’07 season at some school absolutely no one has ever heard of … except Coach Wright.

Our family was off to play family!

The preseason began with two good showings, first in the scrimmage against GWU and then in an exhibition game against Holy Family. Then the real season was finally here: we were off to play Northwood.

As we boarded the flight early Friday morning headed to South Florida, the atmosphere on the plane was different than any trip last year. Instead of everyone making jokes and laughing, the cabin was quiet. In fact, most of the team had already fallen asleep before we left the runway.

And, in a way, I think the plane ride has defined our preseason: it was quiet. No Top Ten rankings chatter, no Big East Championship Predictions and definitely no talk of the Final Four. Instead it has just been the 14 of us, committing ourselves everyday to basketball and hoping to find our own place in the school’s history.

When we arrived at Northwood, we were welcomed by a familiar face, that of the legendary Rollie Massimino, a man who has meant so much to the basketball tradition here at Villanova and a frequent visitor to practices during my time here.

Although we were happy to see the success Coach Mass has had in starting a basketball program at Northwood, we knew that this visit was all about us.

It was time for this team to begin its journey to become the best team it can be by the end of the season, and the three senior tri-captains made sure that the journey would start the right way. We quickly jumped out to an early lead and continued to build it all the way up until 10 minutes left in the game when I heard the No. 4 called.

That’s right. With 9:41 seconds left in the game, I was taking off the warm-up.

Twenty-seconds later, my hands were on the ball: I was wide open and ready to shoot.

Swish! Count it … three ball … tri-fecta!

Yes, you heard it right … swish!

The 3-pointer ripped through the net.

Nine minutes later (after one assist and two rebounds for those of you who are counting) and the first win for the ’06-’07 Villanova basketball team was complete. And as they say, the 14th man was “in the book.”

In the midst of writing this I have been packing for our trip down to the beautiful tropical island of St. Thomas where we will spend the next week in the Paradise Jam tournament.

So everyone, as you enjoy the wonderful weather here in Philly (keeping warm in your Villanova flap hats), I’ll make sure to catch some good rays for you.

Until next time, happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your break!