So Thursday against Oral Roberts is Senior Night for CJ Carter and Mike Rostampour…it’s also CJ Carter’s birthday. So I am just going to suggest that the student section bring confetti and toss it up in the air after Carter’s first field goal.
Remember that time I bragged about my wife being a division one athlete? Okay, I will do it again. My wife is and was a tough competitor, one who never played with a smile on her face and never let her opponent see any fear. She claims to have never cried over anything, except for her senior day. It was a culmination of a career that she never expected to have and that never prepared her for the emotions of her senior day. My wife was recruited by bigger schools for softball, but academics were more important her than going to a bigger conference school as she wanted to be a college professor after her college playing days were over, not a professional softball player. As a softball player though, she dreamed and hoped of going to a program not known for excellence and helping turn them into a dominant team, but the dream never materialized for a various number of factors.
If both of you that read this are curious, my wife had a scholarship offer to play softball at Creighton but turned it down. It was partly because Omaha was too cold for her (even though she would end up here 5 years later), and because they did not have a good enough of an academic program for her. Yes Creighton homers, someone said that about your educational program.
Perhaps I see a similar thing with Carter and Rostampour. Both players knew there was not a shot of upsetting anyone in the conference tournament, or the NCAA tournament, but they knew they were going to help build a program. Both are here to help set traditions for a program that has no Division 1 tradition as it is still just a baby in terms of being division one. Their careers became examples of how to play on the court for future Mavericks and that college athletics is actually more about getting an education than winning conference tournaments.
They certainly do have a good cop-bad cop routine going. CJ Carter always has a smile on his face through the good times and bad times. His smile reminds you of all the blackjack dealers at Indian casinos that smile, dance, and celebrate every time they screw you over with a 21 to your 20. I will beat you one day WinnaVegas! I was not sure if Rostampour had the proper muscles in his face to pull of a smile until I saw the team’s photo on their website. He constantly has a facial expression like he is auditioning for a part in the next Batman movie as the dead faced Mr. Freeze. You would take him as Mr. Freeze over Arnold any day.
CJ Carter was here for four years, the program’s first 4 year starter. Much of the Omaha community that measures a college basketball program’s success with attendance ratings and corporate sponsor ships has not given much respect to the non-hockey sports at UNO. Seriously, I talk to some people that still are not aware that they moved to division one. So with that, no one has played or will play more “meaningless” minutes than CJ Carter, or scored more disrespected points, dished out more assists to field goals that went unnoticed, snatched more steals that went to possessions that led to fast breaks that people automatically discredit around here. He’s also hit a lot of threes, but I ran out of ways to say things.
Mike Rostampour added a much needed toughness to a UNO front court that lacked size, rebounding, and heart at times. I mean no disrespect to John Karhoff, Matt Hagerbaumer, or Alex Welhouse, they played with everything that they could, but they were in several mismatches as the team was transitioning in the beginning. Rostampour added toughness to that group, another body to box out, and as a big time rebounder he was the missing piece in the front court. Even though he has an unsmiley face, no one during the transition played with as much emotion and intensity during the run, for the UNO Mavericks or for the Summit League. Rostampour has really set a high bar for performance at UNO. Before Rostampour, UNO players had the body language of guys that expected loss, Rostampour changed the atmosphere to a group of guys that expected success. He knew that UNO had no chance for a post season when he got here, he could have state at St. Cloud State, but he came anyway, and it appears that he has embraced every moment of it.
Something that really surprised me about Rostampour, okay a lot of things have surprised me about Rostampour, but recently in an Omaha World Herald article, it was mentioned that he did not like the junior college that he played for because it was a basketball prison. They cared very little for academics and just wanted the team to play basketball. I did not except that from Rostampour. As a fan, I do not follow him around from class to class and take notice of the hard work that he puts into that aspect of his life. As a fan, I just see the love that he puts into the game and notice the hard work that he puts into the sport. It was refreshing to take notice of an athlete that can appreciate the sport and the classroom. I have met several athletes that thought class was just a pain or an inconvenience.
So senior day. My wife cried because it was the end, the end of an era of her life that she could never relive. She worked hard to help build that team for four year and it never materialized, it did not entirely work out the way she wanted. Her Belmont team was not able to make the conference tournament. She and her team did not have much support in the beginning, many players did not give a damn in the beginning, and her junior and senior years she finally had a competent coach but would never get to be on a team that the coach could have as a final product. If you are curious that is coach Amy Tudor, who left Belmont for Summit League IPFW and left IPFW to go to her home of Western Kentucky. Belmont and IPFW are currently poor at softball, Western Kentucky is doing quite well (they beat Nebraska this last weekend).
So I ask this, my wife did not have the exact same experience at Belmont that Carter and Rostampour have had in Omaha, but there are some similarities. Will we see tears from CJ Carter, who gave everything he could to UNO, his hometown, the same place that did not fully recognize his efforts for all four years? Will we see tears from the fearless Mike Rostampour, who knew what he was getting himself into, that had a goal of toughening up this Maverick team? It is not that I like seeing guys in their early 20s brought to tears, but as a fans, I think it shows us that we did our part to let them know that we cared about them as much as they cared about us. It shows us that they do not want to leave Mavnation and that this was all worth it. As fans our tears could not be enough to repay them for their efforts, sad to see them go, we repay them by showing up to every game in the future that we can to support the team and the program that they helped grow. We do what we can to get this team to where guys like Carter and Rostampour envisioned it to be. Let’s not have the program turn into a Nicolas Cage film.
The growing (and crazy) student section, that is a great start.
Okay, so who are the Mavs playing on Thursday?