By: Julius Johnson
It’s been my nickname for quite a while.
It’s a persona that I’ve tried to adopt into everything I do.
Maybe some of that is more obvious than others (cue the Tom Hanks beard references).
But the wolf is my favorite animal. It’s ferocious and smart. It’s not scared of anything in the wild. It travels in packs and is always stronger when surrounded by its teammates.
When I play the game of basketball, I try to embody those things. I grew out a beard that’s vicious and tough and dirty. I’ll get on the floor to get after every loose ball. I’ll jump into a scrum to try to give us an extra possession. If the ball is above the rim, I’ll try to go get it even if there are taller people around. If I need to take an elbow to the face or guard a 6-10, 300-pound All-American, I’ll do it. Whatever it takes to help this team. I’m not worried about the big statistics or the highlight reels.
This past weekend was really fun and special for me. It was definitely a memory that I won’t forget. As a team, we went to the World Trade Center tower and saw the 9/11 memorial fountains. Before we left, Coach Mooney had us watch the ESPN documentary about the man with the red bandanna. It was about a lacrosse player who worked in the towers and saved a lot of people’s lives by continuing to go back up the steps into the fires. He sacrificed his life that so many others might live.
It was such a humbling experience. You think about what so many people went through and sacrificed on that day and have since then, and you realize that trying just a little harder on a basketball court is nothing in the grand scheme of it all.
This program has given me so much in terms of experiences and opportunities and education. I’m doing everything I can to try to give back.
On Saturday morning, we woke up after a really late night and a hard-fought overtime loss. It could have been easy to be groggy at that early shootaround. It would have been natural to be more quiet.
But we couldn’t have that. There was a lot of screaming and yelling and energy that morning. I was talking to De’Monte Buckingham who I’m pretty close with, just encouraging him to keep doing what he’s doing. We pushed ourselves to be ready and didn’t let anyone fall behind.
And that translated later that night on the court when we were down 11. We couldn’t let the pack down. I couldn’t let them down. We’ve gone through too much to not fight back in that moment. Watching the ball go in and seeing us get stop after stop against an ACC team, those were great moments and we felt good about how we responded on the way home.
But last weekend can’t just be a nice memory of Thanksgiving in New York. It can’t just be a nice performance against an ACC team. You can’t sit back and be happy that your friends and family texted you about watching you on TV. Last weekend has to be a stepping stone. A stepping stone to a better practice. And a better shootaround. And a better game on the road in a hostile environment against a really good team like Bucknell.
The great thing about memories is that they are always kind of changing a little by the things that come after them. They are put into context. I want last weekend to be a big memory in an even bigger journey.
On to Bucknell.