The future of the Hartford Men’s Basketball Team
University of Hartford senior guard Andres Torres dropped a telling Freudian slip during a very emotional post game press conference last night at the Reich Family Pavilion in West Hartford. The sixth seed, underdog Hawks had just suffered a heartbreaking 77-73 double overtime loss to second seed Vermont in the semi final round of the America East Tournament. A team that opened the season 0-13, the Hawks were attempting to complete a monumental comeback with a trip to the conference championship game. Saturday night they pulled off the upset of the tournament, knocking off third seed Boston College. Last night the Hawks were poised for another stunner but Torres fouled out with one minute left in regulation, just when it appeared he’d committed his sixth steal of the game. With a minute and a half left in the first overtime their top freshman, forward Mark Nwakamma, fouled out and the Hawks were forced to go the final six and a half minutes with their top two players on the bench. Still, it wasn’t until Sandro Carissimo scored on a baseline drive with twelve and a half seconds left and Maciel Genisis missed on a three point attempt with four seconds left, coach John Gallagher admitting it was by design, trying to go for the win and avoid a third O-T, that this one ended. And so ended the career of captain Andres Torres, who’d navigated some rocky waters to reach this juncture. Recruited out of Puerto Rico by then assistant coach John Gallagher, his career took a downturn when Gallagher took an assistants job at Penn and, following Gallagher’s return as head coach, a knee injury in Kentucky wiped out what should have been his senior year. “Coach Gal supported me”, said Torres, reduced to tears and momentary pauses to gather his thoughts, “I believe any other coach would have quit on me at the beginning of the season when I was having a tough time.” “I want to thank my senior class, starting 0-13 and not even blinking”, Gallagher would say after Torres left the podium, “Andres has become a son to me. I love him.” And for two nights in March, as the clock ticked off the waning moments of his career, Torres returned the love with a demonstration of leadership that left two of the league’s power teams gasping for air. The tears that overwhelmed him over the final eleven minutes of his college basketball career, as he watched from the bench, carried over to the final press conference and Andres Torres dropped the Freudian slip. “We have a bright future.” There it was. Andres Torres is forever a Hawk, forever part of this team, to be carried into that future by a talented freshman class, seven strong, led by Nwakamma and fellow league All Rookie choice Nate Sikma. The future started fourteen games into this season, when 0-13 came within four ticks of the America East championship game. Statistics don’t always tell the truth. The final statistic on the scoreboard at the Chase Family Arena last night said the University of Hartford Hawks were losers. A very talented freshman class, inspired by their graduating leader, is standing by to prove that’s one statistic that’s a lie. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.