Colorado State’s four seniors stood on the floor at Moby Arena one final time Wednesday night at Moby Arena. As “Stalwart Ram Team” played in the background, tears flowing from his eyes, Daniel Bejarano doubled over, realizing that his five-year college career had finally come to a close. J.J. Avila could do nothing but shrug his shoulders, wiping the tears off of his face. Stanton Kidd simply stood with his head bowed, taking in the final seconds of his college basketball career. Marcus Holt, after playing his first meaningful action since the Rams’ senior night victory over San Jose State, crouched down into a catcher-like stance and let the emotions run out.
After a record-breaking 27-win season, the final stanza of Colorado State’s season ended with two-consecutive losses, a 56-43 defeat at the hands of San Diego State in the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament and an 86-76 disappointment against South Dakota State in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament.
A team expected to return to the NCAA Tournament, didn’t.
For many outside of Fort Collins, this season will be a series of what-ifs. If this or that had happened, maybe things would have gone differently. If one call or shot had gone CSU’s way, maybe CSU would be talking about its third March Madness appearance in four years. Those who haven’t been around this program over the past two years will see the lack of an NCAA Tournament appearance, and point to the team’s struggles on the road and a schedule that “just wasn’t tough enough.” People who haven’t spent time in Moby Arena over the past 18 months will see what this team didn’t accomplish, not what it did. And the four seniors – right, wrong or indifferent – will be the faces of that.
But if you’ve spent time around this team, or stepped foot in Moby during their time here, remembering this group for being anything less than special would be a grave mistake.
Instead, as Willie Nelson once said, “Remember the good times.”
Remember J.J. Avila for the acrobatic, almost mind-blowing scoop lay-ups he became known for around the country. Remember his physical, bull-like style of play, constantly outmuscling and out-toughing opponents bigger and stronger than he was. Remember the excitement you felt when he snatched a rebound out of mid-air, dribbled coast-to-coast through five opposing defenders and finished with a shot you had to see in person to believe. That’s how I’ll remember him.
When you reminisce about Stanton Kidd, reminisce on the single year of Baltimore-tough basketball he brought to Colorado State. Reminisce on the infectious passion for the game he attacked every day with. Reminisce on the big brother-like personality he brought to the CSU program, constantly taking younger players under his wing. Reminisce on the silky-smooth mid-range jumper he had, and the versatility he brought in the 34 games he donned the green and gold. That’s how I’ll reminisce when I think of Stanton Kidd.
When you recall Marcus Holt’s time at Colorado State, recall his incredible athleticism and gravity-defying dunks. Recall his performance against Utah State in last year’s Mountain West Tournament when he single-handedly shut down Aggie standout Jarred Shaw. Recall the smile he flashed after every rim-rattling dunk he threw down and every shot he swatted out of bounds. That’s how I’ll recall Marcus Holt’s time as a Ram.
And finally, when you think of Daniel Bejarano, think of everything he brought to the Colorado State. Think of the player who leaves Colorado State as the winningest three-year player in school history with 69 wins. Think of the boy who head coach Larry Eustachy says became a man. Think of the player who battled through a knee injury for the entirety of the 2013-14 season, because he couldn’t stand the thought of letting down his teammates. When you think of No. 2, think of the relentless toughness he played for, and don’t forget the incredible 3-pointers he hit that were so deep, one young sportswriter started embellishing the depth to include a number of CSU campus landmarks. Think of a guy of who gave Colorado State everything he had, every single day. That’s what I’ll think of when I think about Daniel Bejarano.
These four seniors, as vastly different as their roles were, each brought something special and unique to Colorado State during their time here. Each of them came from another destination, looking for a place to call home, whether it was for as little as one year or as many as three. The four seniors who cried their eyes out Wednesday night did so because they love this town, this team and this university.
Remember them for that.
The Pope has spoken.