MILWAUKEE -- The chance to come to Milwaukee for the NCAA Tournament is bittersweet for one of the players in town this week. Milwaukee is the city Akeem Springs hoped his team would be sent to, but he will not get to play himself.
Springs is a face a lot of fans in Milwaukee already know, and he has a personality that's easy to like. He envisioned himself appearing at the NCAA Tournament when he transferred to Minnesota. The previous three years, he played at UW-Milwaukee.
"That was the first time I really felt sad because that was my goal, to come back and play in front of the Milwaukee crowd, the Milwaukee people that's been supporting me for three years," said Springs.
Sad -- because after a successful senior year with the Golden Gophers, Springs' college career effectively ended Friday, March 10th in the Big Ten Tournament.
"I just turned, made a turn to chase somebody off a screen and I heard a loud pop. I was confused. If you watch the video, I turned around 'cause I think somebody threw something on the court. It was that loud. Once I stood up and laid back down, I started comparing my two Achilles so I knew it was torn," said Springs.
Springs' teammates were crushed.
"It's really hard to just explain what he meant to the team. He meant so much. He was like the heart and soul of our team and he obviously provided a lot of leadership and he was a great three-point shooter and defender, so it's going to be hard to really replace everything he brought for us but everyone's just going to have to step up," said Stephon Sharp, Minnesota sophomore.
Springs must get used to his new role, one he describes as being a player/coach.
"I'm trying to get coach to give me a clipboard. That's going to be fun. If coach gives me a clipboard, then we'll be in business," Springs said.
Springs got a chance to practice his new job Wednesday, making the most of his homecoming.
"Yell a lot, get in the guys' ears, whisper in their ears if it's something I can't say too loud so that's just my role," said Springs.
Minnesota will play Thursday afternoon, March 16th against Middle Tennessee State University.
Springs says his favorite spots in Milwaukee were Carson's and Oakland Gyros.