25 November 2012

What a basketball debut!

I got a thriller Saturday night in my first ESPN3 college basketball game, as the College of Charleston shocked 24th-ranked Baylor 63-59 in Waco. I really enjoyed the broadcast alongside former DePaul standout and NBA veteran Stephen Howard, and I walked out of the Ferrell Center both exhilarated and satisfied.

The workday started with team shootarounds in the early afternoon, and they were even more helpful than I anticipated. Charleston went first, and we watched from the side with Director of Athletics Communications Marlene Navor and the radio crew of Jeff McCarragher and Everett German. Our familiarity with them would pay off later.

On the Baylor side, the big story was that sharp-shooting guard Brady Heslip would miss the game while recovering from appendicitis. We found this out at the shootaround, but we could not get anybody from Baylor to confirm it on the record, even though we tried right up to tip-off. Of course, much to our frustration, it ended up in the Associated Press recap of the game, so it was definitely not a secret.

We returned to the Ferrell Center for a late-ish tip-off, and despite my (needless) search for a proper credential and Stephen's (fruitless) search for a functional pen, we were ready to go in plenty of time. That was in stark contrast to Baylor radio announcer John Morris, who made a mad dash from the Bears' football game in Arlington, Texas, back to Waco in time for the game. That's what I call a full day!

The game itself was fascinating - Charleston rained 3-pointers early and led at the half, then survived Baylor's revved-up defense in the second half despite getting just one point from leader Andrew Lawrence. He instead turned provider, setting up teammate after teammate for key baskets. The Cougars had six of their eight players contribute at least eight points, and sophomore center Adjehi Baru hauled in 15 rebounds. The key man was his frontcourt partner Willis Hall, who went 8-for-10 from the free-throw line (his teammates were 4-for-10) and hit his only two field goals in the final minutes for the 63-59 win.

Up close and personal, shortly before tip-off.
Behind the scenes, basketball moves so fast that there were some great efforts to aid the broadcast and keep us on top of things. We got an outstanding performance from our statistician on this day, Jeff, who provided helpful notes all game and constantly helped me keep track of individuals' foul trouble. His biggest play, however, came when No. 13 checked in for Baylor. This player was not listed on the roster and had no last name on his jersey; luckily, Jeff knows the program and alerted us that it was freshman Taurean Prince wearing a different uniform, and we were able to introduce him quickly and pass that on to the CofC radio crew.

Finally, as we got into the final five minutes with College of Charleston still in the game, I used my phone to email Charleston's Navor, who was sitting diagonally across the court from us, and I asked her for the date of Charleston's last win against a Top-25 team. I had noticed earlier that the season (2009-10) and opponent (North Carolina) were in the notes, but not the exact date. I never figured it would come into play! I could see Navor across the court, rifling through records, but I was still worried she hadn't gotten the message. In the final minute, my phone finally buzzed with the crucial email, telling us the exact date (Jan. 4, 2010) and the fact that this win was only Charleston's second ever on the road against a Top-25 team and first since 1993. I let Jeff relay the message to the graphics crew, and we were able to get it on the air at the final buzzer. Perfect execution!

Stephen even has a height advantage in post-game interviews.
After we went off-air, Stephen interviewed Doug Wojcik to provide material for the ESPN family of network, and we also filmed a web segment that you can see here. We actually shot a second take that was a little smoother, but the one currently online is our first effort.

Basketball never ceases to make me feel short.
All in all, I really enjoyed my first basketball game of the year and hope it leads to a few more here and there. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on Baylor and College of Charleston as the season heats up. It'll be back to football next Saturday, though, with a little bit of soccer thrown in during the week. I'm very thankful to be this busy.

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