Saul Phillips said he vividly remembers his senior day at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, which was highlighted by him cracking the rotation and rimming out a 3-pointer that a teammate slammed in.
The sparkle of senior day was lessened for Phillips by the fact his Pioneers were an NCAA Division III powerhouse that still had a handful of home playoff games afterward.
That’s not the case for his seniors at Ohio. Starter Mike Laster and walk-ons Antonio Bisutti and Sam Frayer will almost certainly play their last game at The Convo on Tuesday night against Bowling Green.
The Bobcats (12-16, 5-11 Mid-American Conference) are in a four-way tie for ninth in the MAC. But with two games to go, tiebreakers have determined they cannot break into the top eight and host a conference tournament game.
So, on one hand, there’s very little for Ohio to play for. It’s a team dogged by injuries that could use a chance to catch its breath before the do-or-die MAC Tournament starts next week.
On the other hand, there’s meaning in a potential win against the Falcons that goes beyond conference standings.
“Well, we just want to get as many wins as we can,” coach Phillips said. “But the overriding arch for this game is just sending Mike out on a winning note. That would be ideal.”
Laster is Phillips’ only four-year scholarship player. They started at Ohio in the same season, and Phillips hopes to send his off senior leader the right way.
As a freshman, Laster felt challenged by limited playing time. Now he's one of the team’s top scorers and is on pace to lead the way in minutes per game.
Bisutti and Frayer, both of whom have played mop-up roles in just five games this year, may not hit the floor Tuesday night. Phillips will play to win, giving no preferential treatment to players on their way out.
Playing to win will be easier for the Bobcats if they have the services of shooting guard Jordan Dartis, who played just three second-half minutes Saturday due to a flare-up of hip pain. Dartis sat out practice Sunday and Monday (which has been the norm lately) and will make the effort to dress against Bowling Green.
“My guess is that he’ll go,” Phillips said. “But it’s a guess.”
With or without Dartis, many eyes will be on Laster and the culmination of his career at The Convo. He has plenty of family members coming in, mostly from Detroit, including his parents, three older sisters, two nieces and three nephews. There are so many — as well as potentially an uncle and cousin coming, too — that he’s having trouble keeping track of securing tickets.
“I think I still have to put their names on the ticket list, I guess,” Laster said.
He has plenty else to think about — primarily, ending his home career on a high note.
Laster recalls watching other players have their senior day moments. They would go to center court and take photos with family while he stood on the side, clapped and waited for tip-off.
Now it’s his turn. That’s starting to sink in.
“I’m just sitting there (in past years), thinking like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna miss these guys,’ ” Laster said. “ 'We had a lot of fun times, a lot of memories together,' and stuff like that. So me being in that spot out there, I would assume or guess that people will probably be thinking the same thing about me.”