Did anybody else find themselves listening to “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan while watching highlights of Zak Showalter, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, and Vitto Brown after the game on Friday? Okay, maybe that was just my way of coping with the loss. But Wisconsin lost much more than a basketball game on Friday: we lost four extraordinary players, students, and community members.
After letting some time pass after the heartbreaking loss, the only thing I could think about was how much Wisconsin is going to miss this talented and entertaining group. It wouldn’t feel right sending them off without a proper “Thank you” for all of the memories (and wins) they have brought us, so please join me in my praises to them.
Dear Vitto, Nigel, Bronson, and Zak,
The four of you have done more for this university, basketball program, and city of Madison than words can describe. Thank you for being a part of the Wisconsin Badgers and helping bring victory home countless times. Thank you for being the type of community members that people look up to, whether going to see sick patients in the hospital or bringing more awareness to Native American groups. Thank you for being activists in the community and standing up for what you believe in and being true role models for the younger generation. Thank you for gracing us with your presence on and off the court.
I will never forget Vitto’s beautiful voice singing “It’s A Shame” and seeing Nigel background dance behind him with a wide smile on his face at the Buckingham’s. Thank you Zak, for representing a true Wisconsinite and working your way up from a redshirt freshman walk-on to a starter. We can only hope that your hard work on and off the court is passed down to current and future Badgers.
Thank you for always playing until the last buzzer and giving everything you had to this program. Whether up or down by 20 points, you gave all of your effort. Each of you played such a different part on the team, but you played it well and to the best of your ability. We will surely miss your confidence as time was ticking off the clock and putting up the last second shot, we’ve seen you all do it and gotten just as ecstatic each time.
Thank you for playing gritty on both ends of the court, and taking charges like pro’s (we’re looking at you here, Showy). Even when faced with the toughest tasks, like taking down the number one overall seed this year, you prevailed. Your will to win was inspiring and won’t be forgotten. The way your veteran leadership showed on the court when faced with adversity, whether it meant being down by a lot or playing under a new head coach, you stuck together and shocked the nation along the way. Your sense of determination is something we can all look up to. When you were given the eight seed in the NCAA Tournament, you proved you were up for the fight against Villanova and took them down, all while busting a few brackets.
The four of you made it easy to cheer for Badger basketball. Each of you brought something different to the team, skill and personality wise. We will miss Nigel’s sense of humor in “Hayes for Days,” trying to trip up a stenographer during a press conference, or accidentally calling a reporter beautiful into a nearby microphone causing him to cover his face in embarrassment. We will miss Bronson’s clutch performances, and the sigh of relief when the ball is in his hands with time winding down. We will miss Zak’s grittiness and the way he was so relatable to Wisconsinites. And of course we will miss Vitto singing the National Anthem and him always doing what the team asked of him.
You only come by a group of seniors like this once in a lifetime. While some of us are still moping about the season’s sudden end, don’t forget the good times we had when these four still sported the red and white. It is hard to believe that they won’t be stepping onto the court next season, but their futures are all so bright and I can’t wait to see what is next for them. I know I am a proud member of the Grateful Red, and there is no one else to thank for that other than Vitto Brown, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, and Zak Showalter.