Q & A With 2008 Starting Five
What are each of you doing these days?
Ross Kelley: I am working at Wasserman Media Group, a sport agency in Los Angeles.
Tyler Nading: I'm working with ch2m hill, an environmental engineering company based in Denver.
Aaron Thompson: I'm currently living at home, spending time with family and getting a chance to watch my little brother grow up a bit. At the beginning of the summer I was planning on attempting to continue my basketball career overseas, but as those hopes fade with the conclusion of the summer I am gearing up to find a job in finance.
Cameron Smith: I'm working in Fairfax, Va., for ExxonMobil. After I graduated, I hung around home for a month or so and then moved out here in late June. I work during the day, and by night I play softball, volleyball, and flag football with teams from work.
Troy Ruths: I just started the third year of my PhD in computer science at Rice. If all things go as planned, I'll be here for five years total. After that, I'm not quite sure where I'll go: anywhere from staying in academia to doing industry research for a company like Microsoft or Google. I still play basketball with a group of guys I met down here in Houston and I've even had some offers recently to play overseas.
What do you remember most about the 2008 National Championship Game?
Ross Kelley: To be honest the whole game and all 60 points that Troy scored are kind of a blur. The image that I really remember is the celebration at half court directly after the final whistle. That moment of utter joy as all my teammates were jumping beside me, celebrating in the downpour of confetti, was a pretty surreal moment.
Tyler Nading: The thing I remember most about that game is how well prepared we were for Amherst's sets. We were very focused and knew what we needed to do to win. I think being better prepared than them gave us a really big advantage. I also remember Troy's 180-turnaround post move off the backboard from straight on. If Troy answers this question he is lying, because I'm pretty sure he was blacked out that whole weekend.
Aaron Thompson: I remember quite a few things about the championship game in 2008. The first thing that comes to mind is Danny O'Boyle's pregame speech. I can honestly say that I remember walking onto the floor after that huddle thinking "These guys can't beat us!" Another thing that I remember is just how well we played as a team for 40 minutes. In my mind, it was the best game we played all year. The last thing I remember is a terrible pass I made late in the game that just got through the defense to Cam. Cam then layed the ball off to Troy slashing down the lane for a dunk, which got played on CBS that night.
Cameron Smith: There was a play late in the game that never even counted. Someone was getting trapped up front, and Ty cut to the high post. He received a pass from the top with a guy right on his back. He instinctively hit Troy with an over-the-head pass, and Troy had an open lane to the basket for a dunk. The only problem--Ty was fouled as he passed, and the basket never counted. That play epitomized that game for us--it wasn't a national championship game...we were just out on the court having a blast, playing a basketball game.
Troy Ruths: After our tight squeeze through the tournament, winning by slim margins, I thought we were in for a fight on the championship court. But instead, we had one of our largest win margins of the year. So, what I remember most is really the surprise; the surprise of how seamlessly we executed and won. I think this realization sunk in the beginning of the second half, where we already had a double-digit lead and we buffered their second half run and counter attacked by gaining an even larger margin. At that moment I think we all realized (except of course Coach), that we had it in the bag. For me, personally, I think it had to have been the best game of my career. I wish I could chalk it up to additional focus or preparation, which it might be, but it felt more like stars aligning. As an athlete, to perform your best at the best level of competition is a realization of driveway-hoop fantasy, and a great way to end a career.
Looking back, what made this team so special?
Ross Kelley: The one thing that made this team so special is the group of guys we had. We were all best friends and really enjoyed each other’s company. This is pretty unusual for a competitive team and gave us an unbelievable amount of chemistry. Our chemistry was why we were so good that year.
Tyler Nading: That team was so special because of the adversity that we had to overcome throughout the year. There were many times when it seemed like we were bending, but we never broke.
Aaron Thompson: As with any championship team, there are times when the ball has to bounce your way. We had several occasions during the season and throughout the tournament where this was the case. After so many favorable bounces, you have to wonder if it was something more than just a good bounce here and a good bounce there. I think that most of our success came from the fact that everyone was willing to grasp their specific role on the team, perform that role to the best of their abilities, and always keep the concept of team in mind. As much as this team was successful because we had the best player in the country on our team (thanks Troy), it was also successful because of the sacrifices made by everyone else, right on down to the guys contributing on the JV team.
Cameron Smith: Our team was so special because of the bond that our team shared on and off the court. Sure, we had some talent and played the game the right way, but I think it was our chemistry and collective will to win that carried us all season long.
Troy Ruths: I think what made this team so special is that we spanned the entire definition of the word. Special can meet exceptionally well, but also can denote the education for particular needs. Our education started early when we lost Sean (Wallis) for the season. Like his knee, Sean's injury shattered our dreams of making it back to Salem. In the subsequent games, we were trounced. It was evident that we had a particular need and it was more than just a point guard, Sean had provided a level of cohesion and glue to our game-time dynamics. We had to learn a new offense, pace, and structure. I think the struggle of finding the answers made the team stronger in the long run. Where most teams might have buckled in similar circumstances, I think it was the amazing players, and moreover, the people they are, that made our team so special.