After a rough start in conference play, and a phone call from Acie Law, A&M's Donald Sloan is hoping…
Sloan, Aggies win with heart
But the Aggies were all heart in Kansas City Thursday night, capturing A&M's first ever win in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament in a 60-47 win over Iowa State.
It all started on Tuesday night, when sophomore Donald Sloan got the call that his mother was ill. She wasn't going to make it very long. She wanted to see him one last time.
He made the trip to Dallas and didn't sleep a wink on Tuesday night, spending every moment he could with his mother—both of them knowing the end was inevitable. When the end did come early Thursday morning the 20-year-old Sloan had to make one of the toughest decisions of his young life.
"This is the first time I've ever experienced anything like this," Sloan said after the game on Thursday. "I debated if I was going to come up (for the game) or not. My family was asking what I was going to do; my teammates were asking what I was going to do. I think I made the right decision. I think (my mom) would have wanted me to come and play in this game."
He struggled at the beginning of the game, even running the wrong play on the Aggies' first possession of the game, but during the first media timeout, A&M head coach Mark Turgeon called him over to the side to make sure that he was able to continue in a game that the Aggies had to win to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
There was no hesitation by Sloan.
"I said, ‘Yes, we're in this together until the end,'" said Sloan, who nearly recorded a triple-double with 12 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. "My teammates really embraced me and I felt like, if I needed anything, they were there. They were there for me and I had to be there for them."
Turgeon was impressed by Sloan's courage, but added that it is nothing new to those who are close to him.
"We know how tough he is because we're around him every day and we see him," said Turgeon, who seemed to be juggling feelings of relief and a sense of pride during the post game press conference. "I couldn't have done what that kid did today. It was pretty special. I know his mom was really proud of him before she passed and obviously if she's looking down tonight, she's really proud of him—not only because of how he played, but because he's just a great kid."
But as if the death of a player's mother wasn't enough of an off-the-court issue to deal with for coaches and players, freshman center DeAndre Jordan acquired a nasty stomach virus on Tuesday night and couldn't even eat on Wednesday. He was unable to participate in the team's workout session on Wednesday afternoon and was finally able to eat small portions at the team's pregame meal on Thursday.
At that point, Turgeon believed that Jordan would be able to go for the Aggies—even though he hadn't eaten and would need to be monitored closely for dehydration.
But during pregame warm-ups, Jordan's condition deteriorated once again and continued to worsen until he finally left the bench and was taken to a local hospital to be examined for possible appendicitis.
"Up until game time we thought DeAndre was going to play, then he couldn't so that kind of blind-sided us, too," Turgeon said. "We've had a tough 24 hours and I was really worried about our team. I didn't want to come up here after a loss and make excuses, but I was really nervous about what happened in the last 24 hours. It was a long, nerve-racking day."
Thanks to the heart of Sloan, and the performances handed in by players like Bryan Davis, Chinemelu Elonu, and Beau Muhlbach the Aggies were able to persevere, and in the process, probably solidifying a spot in the NCAA Tournament next week
But as important as those contributions were from the players on the court, you've got to give Turgeon and his staff credit for holding everyone together.
The Aggies could have mailed it in. They could have laid an egg on national television, and then Turgeon would have taken the podium on Thursday night with a laundry list of valid excuses.
But they didn't. And he didn't.
"When things like this happen, they can either inspire you or they put a little cloud over you," Turgeon said. "I thought we had that cloud over us at the beginning of the game then we fought through it."
A little bit of heart can go a long way.
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