But his players understand it and appreciate it. In a way, it helped them learn how to lean on each other. Their first two tournament wins both came down to one possession. They bullied Miami out of the tournament, running on emotion and execution.
“We’re able to relate in the fact that no one has a perfect life,” Lockett said. “No one is worry free. The fact that we all come from different backgrounds, but at the same time have experienced similar things in our life, we’re able to relate and I think that brings us closer as players.”
The young players, like Anderson, look to players like Blue not because of his numbers but because of what he’s been through.
“A year ago today, everybody was sleeping on Van,” Anderson said. “Nobody really respected him in regards to being a basketball player like they do today. He’s just always on me, he’s always talking to me about things in life like, ‘Your life can change in one year.’ That’s what he did, he changed his life.”
More than buying into a system, the Golden Eagles have managed to exceed expectations by buying into each other.
“You’re going in the fire with these guys,” Anderson said. “You can’t make it through a lot of the things we do alone. So at some point, you’ve got to lean on somebody else and trust them to help you get through it, and at some point they’re going to have to lean on you.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.