November 28, 2020

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Pohl’s Perspective

John Pohl, Journal sports writer

Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks dribbles up the court. The game is tied. He looks to his left and then to his right. He is calm and collected. The clock ticks. Ten seconds to go. Nine. Eight. Seven.

With 1 second remaining, Lin launches a 3-point shot that swishes through the net. The Knicks win and “Linsanity” is in full swing. Lin is mobbed by teammates as if the Knicks just won the NBA championship. Lin is laughing, smiling and running all over the court. Is this really an NBA regular-season game?

Just three weeks ago, Lin was sleeping on his brother’s couch and hanging on to an NBA dream — much like little boys do all over the country while shooting hoops in their driveway — pretending to be Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. Lin’s dream was fading; he had been cut by one team (Golden State) and was struggling to stay on the Knicks. He rarely played — until now.

Because of injuries, the Knicks were forced to play Lin. But what did they have to lose? At the time, they were one of the worst teams in the league. Did it really matter if he played?

Since the Knicks inserted Lin in the starting lineup, he has averaged a mind-boggling 27.2 points per game. He plays with emotion and with the calming effect of a veteran player. For anyone in the league to accomplish what Lin has is incredible. But for an unknown —  wow.

This is what makes sports great. The emotions of the game and incredible moments, like Lin’s, can’t be predicted.

With my job at The Journal, I watch and cover a lot of Webster University basketball games. No, it is not the NBA. I have to say I was not thrilled when I first thought of covering a Division III sporting event. But after watching the intensity, drive and passion Webster athletes put forth, I became engrossed in watching very quickly.

What does this have to do with Jeremy Lin? Plenty, I tell you. When I see Roman Robinson and Stefan Whittingham of the men’s basketball team diving for loose balls, hustling back on defense or raising their fists with excitement, and Kaliann Rikard of the women’s team driving the lane against bulkier players and not backing down,-it reminds me that you don’t have to be Lin to get the attention of this sports writer.

The St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament is coming up for both Webster basketball teams. It is no secret this season has been a bit of a disappointment so far for both teams. That’s yesterday’s news.

I am excited to see what kind of storylines will emerge from the tournament. I remember last season when the third-seeded women shocked the No. 1 team in the conference, Westminster College, in the championship. The men captured the tournament trophy as well. I can still picture both teams cutting down the nets at Grant Gymnasium — they were downright giddy.

Who will be the Jeremy Lin of the women’s team? Will it be emotional junior leader Airyn Miller or senior Loren Douglass? Maybe it will be freshman Cassie Endicott or catalyst Maggie Zehner, a junior.

For the men, will junior Cody Bradfisch be the spark, as he was last year during the men’s championship run? Maybe it will be back-up point guard Mel Drady or leading scorers Whittingham and Robinson.

The championship run is upon us. I hope the Gorloks find a couple of Jeremy Lin’s inside their hearts and make this a memorable tournament. One man or woman can make a difference. This is why the game is played — nobody knows what will happen.

I can’t wait to find out.

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