Time is so precious in the world of sports. In most instances, the clock becomes an athlete’s best friend. When that final 20 minute half is over, it all lays in the hands of those five athletes that are standing on the court, in hopes that all of their hard work has paid off, in order to outscore their opponent.
Win or lose there is always next season, right? Wrong. There is never assurance of when an athlete’s playing days will truly be over. The end could come if an athlete encounters an injury in the middle of the season, or when an athlete plays their final game of their career.
Months and months of hour-long practices, running through drills over and over again to make sure everything is crisp and clean, conditioning and lifting weights in the early hours of the morning, and somewhere in between all of that, you find time to also focus on your studies, keep yourself healthy and balance your social life.
Ariel Wilson, along with Catherine Taylor, Jahmal Lane, Billy Ingram and Marcel Moorer have been a vital part of UWA’s athletic programs. Although loss is a part of the game and goodbyes are exchanged from season to season, no one likes to encounter them, but the time has come for them to do so.
All five athletes’ college basketball careers are coming to an end, as they played in their final game on Saturday, February 25. No more practices. No more drills. No more sprints. No more road games.
What was once a routine, or something they looked forward to doing each day, is soon to be in the past, and they will have to fill that gap with a new interest.
“It hurts knowing that college basketball will be over soon, but I plan to play overseas and make basketball a career, while also getting my Masters online,” Ariel Wilson said.
Seeing as college basketball is not the end for Wilson, she has more time to accomplish certain goals that she was not able to overcome during her time at UWA.
“My goal of graduating in May of 2017 was a tough one, only because I transferred, and had a ton of hours to catch up on,” Wilson said. “Fortunately, I will be walking in graduation this May. I wanted to lead my team to a conference championship, however that goal, I did not accomplish.”
Alongside of Wilson is teammate Catherine Taylor, who was also a junior college transfer into the basketball program for UWA, and one of the Tigers leading scorers. However, Taylor was sidelined, due to knee injury, in the later part of the season.
“This season may not have been what we all hoped, and for me it might have ended a little early, but I am still so thankful to be able to say I played this game that I love,” Taylor said. “The places we went and the different people we met will always stay with me. This may be the end, but when one door closes, another one opens.”
According to women’s head coach, Rusty Cram, these seniors have brought a world of experience to the program. Along with Taylor, Wilson was also a leading scorer, and replacing them will be difficult.
“The impact they have had on us is two-fold,” Coach Cram said. “One is they have made us competitive within our conference, and second, they have handed down vital individual work ethics to our younger athletes. Academically, our seniors have over a 3.5 GPA, and that obviously sets the standard for the rest of our team on what they are in college for.”
Whether it was their record, number of championships won, or being able to finish their career on a high note, not all teams will come out with the end result that they wanted. However, coaches want every player to learn something from their experiences.
“As always I hope our seniors take away a great college experience from their friendships they have formed, and that they are prepared for the next chapter of their life,” Coach Cram said. “I have always believed that you get out what you put in to something. These seniors should be in for great things in the days ahead if you believe that to be true.”
Following the women’s game, the men’s team honored their three seniors before they took on the Choctaws of Mississippi College. This game was also the last one for those three players.
According to Coach Sharpe, two of the three seniors have already graduated.
“Knowing my time is coming to an end is really emotional for me,” senior forward, Billy Ingram said. “I love every player on that team just like they are my real brothers, and I love the coaches like fathers. They have helped me become a better person. The coaches understood me very well, and the things I was going through were very tough.”
After college, Ingram is going to face life and start his career in law enforcement. Then he plans to move to New York, marry the love of his life, Akira, and start a family.
Also going through this final journey of college basketball is, senior guard, Jahmal Lane.
“This season has been a little different for me because, being a senior, you have to go out and play every game like it is your last,” Lane said. “It is emotional as well knowing this is your last go around playing the sport you love.”
Lane plans on finishing his degree in sports management, and then, possibly, take on the opportunity of playing overseas.
One of the two seniors that have already graduated is, senior forward and captain, Marcel Moorer, who was excited for his senior year.
“I felt I had a bigger responsibility as a senior on the team,” Moorer said. “It felt great to be a senior, and to be able to have the opportunity to fill that role. I was truly excited to take on the role as someone who my teammates could look to for advice.”
After college basketball, Moorer plans on joining the Air Force to work as an aerospace physiologist.
According to Coach Sharpe, these seniors had a big impact on their program, and even though they did not win as many games as they had hoped for, they did a great job setting a good example for the younger players. The seniors came to practice every day willing to work hard and accept coaching for the basketball program.
“Our staff has really enjoyed this group of guys, especially our seniors,” Coach Sharpe said. “I hope they realize how special it is to be part of a team. We had great team chemistry and team attitude this season, and they are a big reason for that. Many years from now they won’t remember how many points they scored or the wins and losses. They will remember their teammates.”