CHICAGO In his freshman season, Josh Asselin”s trip to the United Center ended in a Big Ten Tournament title. Three years later in the same building, a last-second shot by Penn State”s Gyasi-Cline Heard signaled the end of Asselin”s career in maize and blue.
In a split-second twist of fate, the senior went from focusing on overtime to pondering life after college basketball.
“It will be weird, but it happens to everybody,” Asselin said. “Nobody can stay in this college uniform forever.”
Asselin finished the game with 16 points, including a few patented two-handed slams with knees raised. Though his last game and last year ended on what many would consider a negative note a first round Big Ten Tournament loss for an sub-.500 season Asselin looked back with no regrets as usual.
“I thought we came out and played really hard,” Asselin said without a hint of frustration. “Everyone gave it everything.”
Perhaps this attitude stems from the fact that so little was expected from the center coming out of high school.
At Caro High School, Asselin averaged 16 points and 9 rebounds for a game, and he was honorable mention all-state in Michigan fine numbers but not the resume of a bluechip prospect.
“He”s a guy who overachieved beyond anybody”s wildest dreams,” Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe said. “Nobody knew anything about Josh Asselin before college. I think he lived the American dream for a lot of kids.”
Ellerbe also said he thinks Asselin will have the opportunity to play professional basketball if he wants to.
Asselin played in all but one game in his four years at Michigan, and averaged 9.6 points as the starting center this season. He may be most remembered as the kid who never got in trouble in a period in which the program has been notorious for extracurricular problems.
“On and off the court, he”s been a great leader,” sophomore LaVell Blanchard said.
Maybe the player who will miss him the most is junior Chris Young, his roommate on the road this season.
“He”s been almost a mentor for me,” Young said. “It”s incredibly tough. I can”t believe that starting next week when we start weight-lifting, Josh doesn”t have to be there.”
But while Young will miss his compatriot, he must now turn his attention to taking over the leadership role of this team. Of the four starters the Wolverines will return next year, he will be the only senior.
All season, Young has been one of the most spirited players on and away from the court. In Michigan”s biggest victories, like the 70-69 road victory over then-No. 16 Iowa, he has been sky-high jubilant. In the 91-64 home loss to Michigan State, he was the only one who admitted that the team “quit”.
Young hopes to use this year”s struggles to drive himself and his teammates in the off-season, so that he can avoid completing his career like Asselin did.
“It weighs pretty heavy on my mind right now,” Young said. “I only have one more go-round at this I don”t want things to end on this floor next year.”