MADISON (WITI) — Senior Night comes once a year for college athletes. For the Badgers basketball team, four seniors had the honor on Sunday, March 1st, but there was so much more.
“I was definitely misty before the game. It didn’t hit me until they started walking out with their parents,” Badgers Head Coach Bo Ryan said.
One by one, the four seniors and their families were introduced to the red and white clad crowd at the Kohl Center. Traevon Jackson, Duje Dukan, Josh Gasser and Frank Kaminsky each had their moment to soak in the cheers and acknowledge the appreciation being bestowed upon them.
While three of them would play in their final game at the Kohl Center, Jackson wasn’t able to because of an injury.
“It’s tough, but to see the smiles on my guys’ faces and the joy, this is great man. This is amazing to be a part of,” Jackson said.
Kaminsky, a John Wooden award finalist saved his best for last — scoring a season-high 31 points and leading the Badgers to a big win over Michigan State and a Big Ten regular season title.
“It’s my last game here and I wanted to do something special,” Kaminsky said.
For Port Washington’s Josh Gasser, the moment was especially important.
“When the schedule came out, I had this date circled because I envisioned this exact scenario happening, you know, on Senior Night, last home game against a really good team, closing out the Big Ten,” Gasser said.
In October of 2012, Gasser tore his ACL in practice and he was forced to take a medical red-shirt, missing the entire season.
“It’s been a long journey. It was tough. It was grueling. But I always, I always had the end result in mind. It was tough some days, definitely, and this is one of those nights that it puts it all in perspective that all of that was worth it,” Gasser said.
In his final game, in front of more than 60 of his closest friends and family members, Gasser scored nine points and got the chance to cut down the nets.
“We were able to stick together as a team and just everyone on this team, not just the four seniors, you know, we all had the same goal — winning the Big Ten Championship. We were hungry and worked really hard at it. So, it’s definitely fulfilling, but we have a few more goals,” Gasser said.
“To go out on Senior Day and win a Big Ten title is ubelievable. Josh, Duje, Trae and I have talked about it all four of our year — just an unbelievable feeling to do it in front of our families and friends, where everyone could make it,” Kaminsky said.
This group of seniors has accomplished things very few ever have at the school, including last season’s run to the Final Four.
“We’ve obviously had a lot of wins, a Final Four last year stands out. The first team for Coach Ryan to get there,” Gasser said.
But the journey continues as they continue to march through their final season.
“We have three more nets to cut down after this,” Jackson said.
“I think the legacy is still unwritten, still in the works,” Gasser said.
“A book could be written about the four of them. To just think of the experiences these guys have had and some of them have been through, how they’re battling through things right now. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of seniors than this group,” Coach Ryan said.
The Badgers can win the Big Ten outright with a win in their final two conference games or with a Maryland loss, and they’ll most likely end up with a number one or two seed in the NCAA Tournament where they hope to end up in Indianapolis for a second straight Final Four.