For four Gophers, the end of the road, at least the part paved in maroon and gold, is arriving, quickly.
Tomorrow, Minnesota will honor Austin Hollins, Maverick Ahanmisi, Malik Smith and Oto Osenieks (who made the decision to end his playing career because of knee injuries) on Senior Night, when the Gophers will face Penn State in the regular-season finale.
After that, those players will compete in at least one Big Ten tournament game, and then probably another postseason of sorts -- either the NCAA tournament if they play themselves into the ever-tightening field, or the NIT.
But given the odd week off, the bunch has had some time to reflect back on what they've been through and collected along the way.
Some thoughts from two of those players:
On what it will feel like to play in the Barn a final time. "We've had a week off, and I've been thinking about it. Just thinking about what it's going to be like to play my last game in the Barn. It's definitely a sad moment, but it will be a happy moment as well. It's kind of bittersweet. There are just so many memories ... one that really sticks out of course is the Indiana win from last year when the students rushed the floor. That will always be a memory that I'll remember. Everyone was cheering and jumping around. There was no room to move -- it was a great experience to be a part of."
On his NCAA tournament appearance last year: "You just look back on it and think about how fun it was and what it took to get there. You take that into the next season and you try to do that again."
On the Gophers NIT appearance two years ago: "It was fun in the end but it didn't start like that. Going into the NIT, nobody was excited about that at first. Everyone wanted to make the NCAA. So being in the NIT hurt us at first, but we ended up making the most of that once it started. We ended up making the championship and getting to go to New York. It was a great experience being able to do that."
On coming to the end of the road: "I just remember watching Al [Nolen] and him being my mentor and Blake [Hoffarber] being my mentor, and really realizing that this can't go that quick. But I'm here now. It just was a flash. It's crazy that I'm here now, I'm a senior. Last game tomorrow on the Williams Arena floor but I've enjoyed everything I've been through here and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
On remembering: "After practices, we just talk about things, what happened in the past, past years. I really had fun with this group, this year, all four years I've been here I've had fun. So no matter if I'm hurt or if I'm playing or I'm not playing, I've enjoyed all my time here."
On Austin: "We've been roommates for three years now, so the relationship we've built together is hopefully going to continue even past college. I feel like our relationship is close enough that we'll stay in touch. Coming in as freshmen, being far away from home, we really leaned on one another as family."
On what lies ahead: "Hopefully I play overseas somewhere, find a contract and play as long as I can, really. And then come back and get in the HR field somewhere."
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