MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–With West Virginia University’s 61-58 loss to Gonzaga on Thursday night comes a final goodbye to five seniors.
Nathan Adrian, Teyvon Myers, Brandon Watkins, James Long and Tarik Phillip put on a Mountaineers jersey for the final time.
Each gave their all every night and embraced their role, whether it was cheering on teammates from the bench, mentoring the freshman or grinding it out on the court.
Their careers at WVU ended in disappointment as they fell short of their goal and the pain of the Sweet 16 loss may linger with them for a little while.
“If you ever played basketball, you always dreamed of going to the Final Four and playing on this stage,” junior Jevon Carter said. “To know you were so close and you gave everything you had and to come up short, it hurts. For me I can’t let this game hurt me too much, I got another year. But for Nate, he’s done so I know it has to hurt a lot, probably more than it hurt me.”
“This place gave me a home,” a teary eyed Myers said. ” I don’t cry man. I don’t cry. It just shows you how hard it is to deal with.”
While emotions run high for the Mountaineers, nothing can ever take away their accomplishments over the past two, three or four years.
Adrian represented his home state with pride and passion for four seasons. Every night he gave his all on the court.
During his tenure at WVU, He scored 792 and grabbed 516 boards in 140 games. Most importantly, Adrian emerged as a leader in his final year.
Phillip came to Morgantown from Independence Community College as a sophomore. In his first season with the Mountaineers, Phillip drained a late 3-pointer to seal WVU’s win against Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament.
After that, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native became a key contributor in the Mountaineers offense. He finished his career with 814 points in 106 appearances.
Watkins’ career was plagued by injuries in his first three seasons at WVU. When he finally became healthy as a senior, he helped fill the void left by the departure of Devin Williams.
In his final campaign as a Mountaineer, Watkins averaged 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per contest, by far his best season.
Then there were two players who are known mostly for their contribution off the court.
Long is another West Virginia native who knows just what it means to wear the old gold and blue. Hailing from Charleston, the walk-on saw the court few and far between but he was proud to represent his state either way.
Long worked hard and he was a terrific teammate. He encouraged his teammates to get in the gym, mentored the freshman and even helped with incoming recruits. Every game, Long could be found on the bench cheering on his friends.
Finally, there is West Virginia’s adopted son, Myers. As a junior, he came to WVU from Williston State College.
In a short time, Myers became a fan favorite. His enthusiasm on the sideline is like no other.
Myers is constantly smiling and cheering on his teammates. Off the court, his personality never changes. There was always a smile on his face and he carried a positive attitude.
Before every game, it was Myers asking everyone “We All Here?”
It’s never easy to say goodbye but it’s even harder when it’s these five young men. The ride has been a spectacular one.
When the dust settles and the wounds heal, memories and the bonds formed will be with those seniors forever.
“These are my brothers right here,” Myers said, looking around the locker room. “They gave me so much opportunity. I have no regrets. I love every one of these guys. It’s hard when you realize it’s your last time playing with the people that you love. The love that they gave me, even when I wasn’t contributing on the court…they always accepted me for who I am.
“I am always going to be there for these guys. I can always count on any one of these guys to pick me up and show me love.”
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS