That’s quite a statement for a group of 16 and 17 year old basketball players to make.
“There was no negativity that I was aware of. Everything I got was positive,” Game Elite coach Ryan Falker told the Dagger. “The biggest point we were trying to make, and the kids understand this, is that could have easily been them. Even the caucasian player I have on my team, he wore it proudly. It could have easily been him. It could have been any child of any ethnicity. That’s why they wanted to represent this young man of their generation.”
The most interesting part?
Game Elite has one white player on their 12 man roster. He wore the t-shirt as well.
“Whether you’re white or black or Hispanic, it’s their generation,” said Falker of his team, which is comprised of 11 African-American players and one white player, Alex Bearup. “Trayvon Martin, he looks just like them. He was a 17-year-old kid. These kids are 16 and 17. They identify and say, ‘This could have easily been me.'”
Said Bearup, a 2014 player from Alpharetta, Ga., “If they want to support it, I support the cause with them. We talked in that hotel room, we were shocked and discussed how we really felt about it. It could be anyone.”
Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.
The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.
It wasn’t pretty.
And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.
Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.
The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.
But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.
POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry