SVP’s One Big Thing: Honoring team leaders on Senior Night

SVP’s One Big Thing: Honoring team leaders on Senior Night

We’re coming up on the four-year anniversary of the night it all stopped. The unknowns about COVID-19 slammed the brakes on most everything.

We kept doing shows and one of the coolest things our show has ever gotten to do: #SeniorNight. We got to shine a light on those whose seasons and careers just ended — without ceremony. By the time we stopped doing the segment, we’d highlighted hundreds of athletes and teams across the country. It couldn’t fix things, but it was a chance to let people know: we see you and salute you.

Senior Nights in 2024, thankfully, are the right kind. In gyms filled with people. With more games to come. Moms, dads and siblings alongside as home careers come to a close. There’s so much gratitude to be seen. So much emotion to feel.

North Carolina Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot, through tears, said after his final game in Chapel Hill, “I’m just so thankful. I may not have been the best player that ever played here, but in terms of players? Nobody has loved this school more than I have, and that’s something I can be proud of.”

He can be proud of his whole career. What’s interesting about it was that it lasted long enough to make it to senior night. The game has a strained relationship with bigs these days. It wasn’t long ago that a talent like Bacot would have absolutely bolted after a Final Four run when he averaged a double-double on the way to the 2022 title game in New Orleans.

The thought was something was wrong with anyone who DIDN’T bolt. But the combo of the game changing and the ability of players to make money off name, image and likeness allowed him to make good money AND remain in college. What a beautiful thing that is.

The exact same combo of factors led to National Player of the Year Zach Edey to stay in West Lafayette for a victory lap. He gets one last game in Mackey on Sunday.

Carolina is likely a 2 seed, Purdue almost certainly a 1 seed. Houston will be as well. They send Jamal Shead out this weekend having already won the Big 12 in their inaugural season. Anytime we show him in highlights, I always say: grown man behavior. Because that’s what he demonstrates in all ways. But tough guys can weep, too and he told me when I spoke to him on the show — he’s cried every senior night that wasn’t even his own. This one will be. Shead is a leader in every way. A man Fran Fraschilla says could run practice for Houston if Kelvin Sampson couldn’t make it.

It’s no shock the best teams in America can lean on that — while talent is obviously important, experienced talent, I believe is critical. As Danny Hurley said to me, “you gotta have men.” It’s a common denominator among virtually every excellent team — they have a few adults who stuck around. Able to linger in the best days of their lives with their peers. Gotta make ’em last as long as you can — the real world will be there when you get there.

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