By Daniel Wasserman, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 29, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas — On Monday afternoon, Jimmy King walked into Prof. Santiago “Yago” Colás’s culture of basketball class to give a guest lecture about the Fab Five. Sitting in the 25-person audience were five freshmen tabbed as the “fresh five,” the Michigan men’s basketball team’s newest quintet of freshmen basketball stars.
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The five freshmen — forwards Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, and guards Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht and Nik Stauskas — were there as King answered questions and assisted Colás in teaching the “Fab Five” documentary produced by King’s former teammate and fellow Fab Five member, Jalen Rose.
Monday was King’s second appearance in as many years in the class, which chronologically teaches the history of basketball. Colás said he didn’t purposely schedule the teaching of the Fab Five era, the 90s, to coincide with March Madness, but even with basketball players often his class, he won’t re-configure the syllabus.
“I didn’t set out to do it that way, although in retrospect, I’m glad,” Colás said in a phone interview on Thursday.
King didn’t come into class with a prepared speech. Instead, Colás told the class the previous week to come in with questions that would fuel the 80-minute classroom discussion.
While some of those questions were rooted in history, or how King and the rest of the Fab Five helped to shape today’s basketball culture, some took an entirely different, more pointed focus.
McGary asked King, “ ‘What kind of advice would you give us to get through this regional?’ ” Colas said.
“He was talking about what they did in the Sweet Sixteen and how they tried to take each game as a tournament run, so the first two games to get to the Sweet Sixteen, then those two games, then the Final Four,” said freshman forward Glenn Robinson III. “It’s just an honor to hear some of the things that he had to say about their runs. I think just hearing what he had to say has given me more motivation to win this thing.”
Added freshman point guard Spike Albrecht: “He just said, ‘Go out there, stay confident and stay aggressive.’ ”
Freshman guard Nik Stauskas was impressed that King was “open about talking about anything,” noting that the players, as well as the other 20 students in the class, had the opportunity to ask whatever they wanted.
“We kind of got to see their whole mentality of the runs they made getting to the Final Four,” Stauskas said. “He kind of just gave us his own little message to us of what we should take in from this whole position we’re in. It was really cool just to get his honest opinion and honest word.”
King said that the experience was mutually beneficial, both for the players to hear his perspective, and for him, as a fan and alum, to see the players’ “business-like attitude and enthusiasm” as they’re in the midst of their own postseason run.
“It’s unique for me to see these guys in this position away from the game,” King said in a phone interview. “It’s great for the kids. It lifts your spirits — you feel a part of it, you’re a part of history, even tough you may be making history in your own right, but you’re part of the history that came before you.
“It’s like another block to the foundation of a very historic university that will be there forever, and you want to be a part of that. I think that’s a reason why most of us chose to go there, because of the great tradition and history, and now when you have an opportunity to do it yourself, you do want to pick the brains of people who have been there before you and see how can write your own story and make it unique.”
King explained his primary message was to stay focused and block out the distractions that come along with a NCAA Tournament run, but at the same time, to enjoy the moment.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” King said, recalling his advice to the players. “Don’t get caught up in what people are saying, the talking heads are saying. Don’t read too many papers, just continue to do what you’ve done to get to this point. You’re obviously doing something right, you’re obviously playing the game and winning, so don’t change your formula, don’t change your routine.”
High-profile athletes, like the five current freshmen, typically keep the classroom and playing field as separate entities. That’s why Colás noted that, as both a teacher and a basketball fan, sitting back and watching the interaction between the players and King on Monday was so unique.