Twenty-one years ago, as a University alum, my dad was in Minneapolis, Minn. at the NCAA Final Four. Twenty-one years later, both my dad and I were in Atlanta, Ga., watching our Wolverines in the Final Four.
I grew up in Huntington Woods, Mich. and was raised by my Wolverine father and Spartan mother, so you could say my loyalties should have been divided; however, they weren’t. I’m a third-generation Wolverine — my grandfather attended the University as well. I grew up on Michigan football. I bled, and still bleed, maize and blue. Yet, the absence of a dominant Michigan basketball program reared its headlights right in my face. But I had faith.
Former head football coach Lloyd Carr was my leader. I idolized Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson. I watched former wide receiver Steve Breaston flash down the field for touchdowns and former running back Mike Hart relentlessly run over little brother’s football team. I attended Rose Bowls but never saw a victory. Only when I was five-years old Brian Griese led Wolverines won the national championship in 1997. All this time, Michigan basketball was in the rear-view mirror — a place it’ll never be again.
When you’re a Wolverine, nothing is worse than hearing those Spartans from that school in East Lansing gloat about their successful basketball program and coach Tom Izzo. While I went to the Crisler Center over the years, my childhood was the Big House. I always dreamed of attending the University to spend the best four years of my life as a student. In 2010, that dream came true and with it came something I hadn’t witnessed during my twenty-one years of life: a Michigan basketball title run.
I saw the Daniel Hortons, Bernard Robinson Jrs., Brent Petways and Tommy Amakers of the past, but as I stepped foot on this campus, it was the Zach Novaks and Stu Douglasses that started what Team 96 finished for me in Atlanta. Choosing not to study abroad, one thing driving me this semester was the potential of this young, explosive, exciting and talented Michigan basketball team. I attended more than 10 games at Crisler Arena this year, watched the team in one of the coolest college basketball atmospheres — Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. — traveled to the Palace of Auburn Hills to watch the beat down on South Dakota State University and the take-down of the Shaka Smart-coached Virginia Commonwealth University Rams. So it was only perfect that I stood front row in the student section at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
While my Spartan mother took care of me at home in 1992, the Fab Five was in its Final Four. Twenty-one years later, I stood in the Georgia Dome, just a wave of a hand away from my dad, who sat with my younger brother. We were on a business trip to accomplish something Michigan couldn’t before. Regardless of the outcome, I was truly living the dream — a student witnessing the resurrection of maize and blue basketball.
While we didn’t win the championship, I kept thinking to myself how surreal it was to watch this special season first-hand. My dad texted me after beating Syracuse University and said, “Cannot tell you how proud I am of you and that you’re there and living the U of M college dream.” While our business trip to Atlanta was somewhat unsuccessful, the dream is alive and thriving.
As I stood in the Georgia Dome as the clock hit zero, I was upset and nearly in tears. I chose to walk back to my hotel alone and reflect.
I began to think about what Team 96, head coach John Beilein and his coaching staff have done for this University. I thought about Senior guard Matt Vogrich nailing a pull-up three in the garbage minutes against the University of Florida, laughed about the hilarious open dunks Mitch McGary missed throughout the season, and then thought about seeing him grow and help this team get to Atlanta. Those are just of the few that made me smile and made me proud to call myself a Michigan Wolverine.
Every quiet moment I think about now-former point guard Trey Burke’s block on Peyton Siva and how it could have changed the game. But then I think about the journey that got us there and what’s to come for this program.
Michigan basketball is back, and I guarantee you it’s not going anywhere.
This past fall semester in English 225, I saw Burke walk into the class. While he might not remember, I looked at him and told him, “I’m happy you stayed because we’re about to ball out this season.” That’s exactly what we did.
Twenty-one years ago we were there, but we left. Twenty-one years later, we were there, but this time we’re here to stay.
Joshua Schostak is an LSA junior.