I love big porches with columns. In fact, I would say that, other than giant mutant cockroaches and no liquor sales on Sunday, porches are my favorite thing about Georgia. This is my first spring season having a porch, and I’m not sure anyone or anything has had such a major impact on my life (and yes, I do know Jesus). I have a special appreciation for porches, because we don’t really utilize them in my home state of Oklahoma. A nice porch is as useless as a poopy-flavored lollipop where I’m from, because gale-force winds are not uncommon—I might as well sit on the toilet with a blow dryer in my face. In Oklahoma, it’s not that we don’t want to “porch it.” It seems like a great thing to do, but it’s just not reasonable. So if I really get down to it, it’s actually the amazing Georgia spring weather that allows me to enjoy my porch in front of my dilapidated house. The weather is totally outside of our control, but the place we live is not. In my opinion, when it comes to “porch-ing” (or learning that NASCAR events are actually broadcast on the radio), there is no better place to be than in Georgia.
When it comes to basketball, there is no team I’d rather be involved with than the Mercer Bears. I love these guys almost as much as Lil Wayne loves objectifying women in his songs. I’ve been around college athletes my entire life, and I can honestly say that this group is special. After losing two of our top three scorers to major knee injuries, this team came together like Waffle House and drunk people at 3:00 a.m. The difference between the first and second half of the year was not unlike the difference in personal hygiene levels between the Phi Mu sorority house and the SAE frat house (drastic, and I’ll let you guess which is which).
Brian Mills went from being one of my favorite guys (no homo) to being one of my favorite players to watch. I have honestly never seen, in person, a player dominate games from the mid-range like “Millsy.” Mark Hall, who had come off the bench his entire career at Mercer and had never shown an ounce of discontent, took more charges than Paris Hilton’s credit card this year after being put in the starting lineup. “Sweets” also managed to shoot nearly 40 percent from the three-point line and, when needed, showed the ability to take over a game. Jake Gollon, who has been very nearly physically lame throughout his first two years at Mercer, made huge plays and game-winning shots during the second half of the season. Langston Hall was one of the best point guards in the conference as a freshman. Chris Smith, Bud Thomas, Monty Brown, Justin Cecil, Paul Larsen and Kevin Canevari all stepped up and made what must seem like a very mediocre year to those outside the program a very special year for me.
Every time I thought the season was in ruins, someone else did something that I did not expect. Coaches from other teams would ask me, “How are you guys doing this?” to which I would confidently reply, “I have no earthly idea.” The truth is, however, that we had a bunch of guys who knew their role, genuinely cared about each other, played extremely hard and wanted to do the right thing. The best thing about these guys off the court is that they genuinely care about each other and, for the most part, want to do the right thing. This is why there is no other college team I would rather be “a part” of. This is also why “porch-ing it” in Georgia has become my favorite pastime—the weather is great, but being in the company of my boys is better.
Unfortunately, our season ended much like the Oklahoma porch-ing experience. Like an unexpected calm, we made a run with young players and some great coaching. We enjoyed a few serene moments, with only a slight breeze easing the heat on a warm spring day. We then played Belmont in the A-Sun tournament, a veritable twister of basketball skills (real talk), and had a nice dose of Oklahoma red dirt blown all up in our faces. Much like porch-ing it in Oklahoma, the experience gave us some sweet moments but a bitter taste in our mouths and tears in our eyes. So right now I’m thanking God I’m in Georgia, because there are no gusting winds and there is nothing I’d rather be doing than porch-ing it with some of my favorite guys, reliving some great memories from an unforgettable year.