There will be a lot of time for analytical thought, think-pieces, and breakdowns of the 2022-23 WSU basketball season. I myself will do plenty of coverage on the men’s team’s season on the court, their potential offseason opportunities, and some early projections for next year- and you can find plenty of analysis of the Women’s team’s glorious March Madness run that is sure to come on this very site.
This is not that type of article. Instead, this is something I have known I would be writing for a long time. This is a type of love letter to Coug basketball, the sport itself, and my place in it. With the men’s basketball season coming to an end in the first round of the NIT, I have officially watched my last WSU game as a student.
And, this was likely the last game of my CougCenter writing career.
There aren’t really words to describe my relationship with basketball, but obsession is probably the closest thing that comes to mind. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I am thinking about is basketball. I fall asleep pondering my future in the grand tapestry of basketball, I dream haunted thoughts of my failings in the sport. Basketball hangs around my shoulders like a specter at all moments of the day, always lingering in my mind, whether it was building my schedule around the gym in high school, or planning out my days to maximize time to watch and write about basketball in college, this game has colored every single day of my life for about 6 years now.
I reached out to CougCenter in August of 2021, just looking for any sort of outlet to cover WSU basketball. I was desperate to cover the Cougs because I had so much to say, and the pandemic had taken away most of my primary avenue for communal basketball- the gym. It took multiple tries reaching out through Twitter messages and e-mails, but I was able to eventually secure a zoom interview with the incomparable Jeff Nusser. He’d probably tell you I bombed it and that he felt so bad that he had to give me a shot to write at the site, but I like to say I nailed it and that he couldn’t wait to have me on board. Who’s to say?
Despite selling myself as a basketball guy, my first piece for CougCenter was actually football-centric. I don’t watch much football (not sober, anyways) but the home opener in 2021 was the first taste of WSU sports I had gotten as a student, and I thought I had something interesting to say here.
It’s funny to go back and read that now. Partially because I never read my own writing, but partially because it reads more like a precursor to what I’m writing now, more than it feels like my basketball work.
When I write about basketball, I tend to be very dry and analytical. While my voice as a writer is far from developed now, and it was even further from developed then.
Of course, it didn’t take long for me to put out my first basketball-related piece for CougCenter. The same day my article on football dropped, basketball signed Solomon Ominu (who is no longer coming to Pullman) and I had something to say about that. My love for high school scouting and recruiting is part of what drew me to this job getting to cover such a prolific recruiter, and Ominu was my first crack at that.
A little bit after that, I did my first major analytical piece. It’s funny to go back and read this because it is pretty bad and mostly wrong, but I sure do sound confident. If there’s nothing else to take away over these last two years, it’s that you can’t say I didn’t improve!
Soon after my early season previews, I found my real niche: writing game previews. My favorite thing to do is to watch basketball, grab clips, and think about what that could mean for future matchups. My idea for writing previews was to simply do that and replace thinking with writing. I think it worked out ok.
It’s bittersweet to go back through some of my old pieces, because they really do age like milk. Partially because I was naive and frequently off-base, but also because streamable deletes old clips, so they are basically unreadable at this point. Whenever I go to show people some of my writing in 10 years, they’ll see every video has been erased forever. There is a bit of an irony to that, right? Previews are inherently disposable because no one cares about a preview after the event has finished. So, to reflect that lack of relevance, they slowly delete themselves from existence.
When the season first started, the enigmatic Craig Powers was also writing previews, but we transitioned early on to have me writing the previews full time and it was a blessing to be gifted that type of responsibility. I am not sure that it really even registered for Craig and Jeff, but it meant the world to me. For the first time in my short life as a basketball analyst, I felt that my analysis was important and that it mattered. My confidence reached an all-time high when Jeff asked me to write a specific breakdown of WSU’s offense, with a focus on the schematics. To have someone who I respected in the way I respect Jeff ask me to do something like that was indescribable.
I’m sure around now you’re wondering: “why are you telling me this?”
Well, for one, you clicked the article so you get what you get. For two, I’m going on this trip down memory lane because I know it’s over. Or, at the very least, it almost is.
CougCenter, and WSU basketball by extension, has been one of the main pillars of my life for the past couple of years. Between this website and my work with the Women’s basketball team, my life has been dominated by WSU hoops.
Suddenly, it’s over.
I had my last practice with the women’s team on the same day that the men’s team lost their game to Eastern Washington. Both of those things that I’ve built my life around, over, in the same day. I’m not a student anymore, not a practice player, and, if things go right for me, I won’t be a writer here anymore either.
With the season concluded for many teams, I start the arduous process of looking for a position in basketball. Whether it be as a grad assistant, an intern, or a low-level video coordinator, I am now taking my first steps on the journey away from public basketball analysis and into the private sector.
I’ve been trying to put this into words for a while and every time I just draw a blank. How do I say goodbye to something that I’ve cherished like almost nothing I ever have before? How do I move on from multiple pillars of my life at once? Because that’s what is happening. Everything is changing, the cocoon is breaking away, and suddenly I’m choked up and lost for words.
Over the course of my time at CougCenter, my relationship with basketball has seen a bit of a shift. It still has a chokehold over me, constantly guiding my actions and always being on my mind, but I’ve learned to not resent it so much. For so much of my life, basketball has been about earning respect. It has been this thing that I had to win at, that I had to prove myself in, but I’ve slowly learned to love it again. It can still cause pain, as can anything that plays such a big part in someone’s life, and I still find myself pulling my hair out or having anxiety attacks because imposter syndrome takes over and my insecurity projects itself onto the sport, but I’ve also made some peace.
Writing about basketball, being given the grace to cover the sport in a way I find interesting, and discussing it with brilliant people who encourage me has helped me find that spark again. Not to mention being a (very small) part of the best basketball team in WSU women’s basketball history, suddenly I’m excited again. I see a future in this sport, even if I don’t know exactly what it looks like.
My time writing here might be ending, and I might be moving on from this school and this website, but nothing can ever take these memories from me. To be a Coug and to be a basketball fan is to sign a lifetime contract. A contract that forever bonds you to something bigger than yourself. CougCenter and WSU women’s basketball has strengthened my relationship with both those things in a way that I can’t describe.
I’ve met some of the best people I will ever know through this website. I have had some of the best moments I will ever have while texting in a groupchat. I love this website like I love this school. They’re family to me, and that will never change. No matter what happens in my life, I celebrated WSU winning the Pac-12 Tournament with Craig and Jeff on the CougCenter podcast, I got Emma to fly out to Pullman for my birthday, and I learned a lot about who I want to be as a person.
I’m not sure exactly what the future holds. The women’s season is not done yet and you can bet I will be following every second religiously. I also still have a couple of things to write about WSU Men’s Basketball before I go, so this isn’t goodbye forever.
However, this is probably the last thing I’ll write with this type of tone, and I won’t be announcing through the site when I’m leaving. Some day, it’ll just stop. No more previews, no breakdowns of player we landed through the portal, just some thoughts for a select few, hidden behind a Slack password.
As I move into this next phase of life, it is impossible to not get a little existential. CougCenter itself has gone through some major changes over the past few months. I’m under no illusions that my departure changes things for most, and I’m sure few of you have made it to this point, but this is for me before it’s for anyone else. It’s for my editors, my friends, and my family. My insanity has found an outlet through CougCenter, my obsession has a home, and that’s about to end. The only way I can truly process that is with writing.
If it’s the end of my words here, then I hope everyone who reads this knows that I’m proud of the work I’ve done and I’m so grateful to all of you for giving me a chance. You’ve indulged my ramblings and my growing pains, helped me to be a better writer in the process, and I can’t thank you enough for that. I’m forever a Coug, forever a CougCenter writer, and a part of me will always be in Pullman.
No matter what happens next, no matter where I go, I’ll always have that.
And I’ll always find my way back home.
Go fuckin Cougs.