By Josh Veltrie
It’s the scenario every kid dreams of while playing basketball in their backyard: just under five seconds left to go in the Championship game and your team is down by one. Racing down the floor, trying to beat the clock while avoiding defenders, a floater from the free throw line is shot with a second left. It hits the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounds. The crowd storms the court.
That is the story of Darrick Suber’s shot in the Northeast Conference Championship game over Wagner in 1993 which sent Rider into the NCAA Tournament. The Broncs were able to make it into the Tournament the following year but have not made it back since.
“As soon as it left my hand I knew it was in,” Suber said this week. “It was just a matter of whether I got it off in time and when I looked at the official he gestured immediately that the basket was good.”
If the name Suber sounds familiar, it might be because you have seen his jersey hanging next to Jason Thompson’s in Alumni Gymnasium, the former Bronc who plays for the Sacramento Kings.
As March Madness has already begun, with some conference tournaments starting on Tuesday, a shot similar to Suber’s might happen in the upcoming week or so. And no matter how big or small a school is, that player will be the big man on campus and that play will be remembered for years to come.
This is what makes college basketball different from other sports; these conference tournaments give every team a chance to make a run and get into the dance. And although none of the schools from the smaller, or mid-major, conferences have much of a shot to win the whole thing, they have already won because they made it to the NCAA Tournament. The experience of traveling and being on national television, even for a split second, is something those players will cherish forever because most of the players on those mid-major programs don’t further their careers in the NBA.
“Going to the tournament was phenomenal, not just for the players and families but for the people on the campus that were so supportive,” said Kevin Bannon, the head coach at Rider when it went to the NCAA Tournament in 1993 and 1994.
For teams like Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, Syracuse and the other elite programs in the country, anything less than a National Championship isn’t acceptable. For programs like Davidson, San Diego and Siena, along with other mid-major programs, an appearance in the Tournament with a win or two is considered an extremely successful season and the coach is praised for the job he did with his team. Each of those teams mentioned won at least one game in the Tournament over the past two years.
For a program like Rider, which has been to the NCAA Tournament a total of three times, the first in 1984, it is a very big deal to get the national exposure that comes with a berth into the Tournament. If Suber hadn’t hit that shot, his impact on this school still would have been big, especially since he is still the school’s all-time leading scorer. But he set himself ahead of anyone else in Rider basketball history, even Thompson, because Suber did what Thompson tried so hard to achieve but was never able to: the conference championship and the NCAA bid that comes with it.
“No matter who you are, or what team your on, your goal is to play in the NCAA Tournament,” Suber said. “It’s what you play for.”
By Josh Veltrie