CATCH THE RAMS VS. GEORGE MASON TUESDAY, JANUARY 28 AT 7:00PM ET. ON YURVIEW, COX CHANNEL 4 IN RHODE ISLAND.
Today doesn’t feel like a day to write. It feels more like a day to put down the pen, or fold up the laptop and step back from the game of basketball — after learning of the tragic news of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, the pilot Ara Zobayan, and, according to reports, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton Chester.
Like me, you may not have a deeply personal connection to any of these people.
Yet, it’s about all of us.
Because each one of us can relate in some way… whether as a son, daughter, father, mother, sister, brother, friend, or contemporary. It’s why after receiving that text from my friend in Washington, D.C. around 2:45pm that I was numb — and that numbness became even more pronounced when learning about the kids. It’s why I wrapped up yesterday in a daze and went to bed at 8pm. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.
Whether you had a personal connection to Kobe Bryant or not, as Rhode Island fans you probably watched dozens, if not hundreds of his games, because of the roughly 500 contests Lamar Odom played in the purple and gold alongside him. You admired Bryant’s talent, will, his competitive refusal to fold, his drive to push or pull his teammates with him, or maybe his smile and intelligence. Number 8, and 24, brought joy to many fans… and earned the respect of many opponents and their supporters.
Rhode Island (14-5, 6-1) scored 81 points in its last game, a winning effort for the first time since 2014 at St. Bonaventure. That’s exactly how many points Kobe scored against the Toronto Raptors roughly 14 years ago – January 22, 2006. Numbers often offer a nexus.
The Rams have won six straight in different ways. They’ve won by essentially leading wire to wire, by battling back from deficits to then overwhelm, by making big shots and winning plays late. They’ve won by staying together. That’s the mark of a good team.
Last game, against Bonaventure, everybody contributed. Fatts Russell led the way with 29 points, Jeff Dowtin played 40 minutes of terrific defense and impacted the game across the board, Tyrese Martin grabbed nine boards (again) and knocked down two huge buckets, Cyril Langevine owned the interior, Antwan Walker played stout and smart, Jacob Toppin chipped in a timely three-point make and activity throughout, Mekhi Long was steady as always on both ends, a hobbled Jermaine Harris tried to play through pain, Eric Dadika & Jordan Green pushed teammates in practice and helped make them better leading up to the game, and the staff scripted, adjusted and did its job.
URI head coach David Cox often stresses how the goal to strive for – and maintain – is to play not just with your teammates, but for them. For me, Saturday’s win was both a manifestation of that approach and a team continuing to strengthen internal relationships and understanding that lead to on-court success.
Bryant also spoke, and was asked often, about teamwork.
“The important thing is that your teammates have to know you’re pulling for them and you really want them to be successful.” (Source, Inc.com)
These days, Rhode Island is gaining momentum. As the Rams prepare to face George Mason (13-7, 2-5) tomorrow night, they’ll look to stay centered and anchored to this approach.
And all of us can stay centered and anchored to what means most to us in life.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named an NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44