The meaningless, yet oh so meaningful, mop-up minutes

“Put me in, coach.  I’m ready to play today.”

–          John Fogerty

I was never really all that good at basketball, at least not until later in life.  As an adult, I was better than your average bear that ventured out for the local pick-up game but in high school, I was absolutely atrocious.  I literally knew nothing about the sport or how to play it.  On top of that, I had a lousy coach who was far more interested in checking out senior co-eds than he was in coaching his players.

To make matters worse, I was pretty uncoordinated, not tall but lanky, a buck thirty-five soaking wet.   That combined with a pretty horrible jump shot saw me riding a fair amount of pine on my high school basketball team.

But then there were those moments, late in the game, where you’d look over at the coach from the far side of the bench, that gleam in your eye, hoping he’d call your number and there it was.  “Humpherys, you’re in!”

The mop-up minutes.

I was reminded of those glorious free-for-all moments the other day while watching Florida embarrass Mississippi State.  With just a few minutes left in the game and the Gators holding an insurmountable lead, Billy Donovan removed his starters and put in his bench.  One of those players was freshman Dillon Graham.

Don’t get me wrong.  Dillon Graham would likely destroy any one of us on the basketball court.  The Orlando product is 6’4” and can apparently shoot the lights out of the basketball but he has yet to see much playing time this year on Billy Donovan’s highly ranked squad.  Hence, the mop-up minutes.  This season, Dillon’s averaging four minutes a game and has scored only six points all season long, all of those coming in the mop-up minutes.  But for Dillon, or anyone else who’s ever experienced that time on the floor, it’s like playing on the biggest stage of all.

This Saturday, with about two minutes left, Graham threw a perfect, half-court pass to DeVon Walker who finished the play with a resounding dunk.  Dillon’s eyes lit up and the crowd roared, everyone understanding exactly what moments like those mean for guys who never get to play.  You could tell just by looking at him that his heart was racing a mile a minute, and rightfully so.

Dillon Graham is only a freshman.  Who knows what his future at Florida holds.  Maybe he’ll start next season.  Maybe he won’t make the team.

But for one moment, he reminded all of us what it was like to have your number called and how much it means to make a play when that play doesn’t really matter at all.

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45 Replies to “The meaningless, yet oh so meaningful, mop-up minutes”

  1. Pingback: The meaningless, yet oh so meaningful, mop-up minutes - BallHyped Blog Network, NCAA Basketball | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. I guess getting your number called is good, as long as it doesn’t mean that your number is up. I’ve had my number called many times but it was usually at the deli.

  3. And I’m suddenly taken back to why that sappy flick Rudy tugged at the heart strings.

    Sometimes all a scrub needs is a shot.
    Just ask Earl Clark.

    Keep the faith splinter collectors, your shot is merely an injury or blowout win away.

  4. Bleed…

    Did you catch the Lakers broadcast the other day, I guess it was on TNT, where I think maybe Marv and Steve Kerr were doing the play-by-play and Kerr was taking credit for originally having drafted Clark?

    Hey, at least the guy looks like he wants to be out there. That’s more than we can say for Dwight these days.


    Do I ever miss the Wolfy’s Rascal House Deli on Collins Ave. Heard they packed it in.

    Chris, your Gator’s look the best in a competitive field.

  6. Loved this post. Can identify with it from a high school basketball camp I attended at U of Maryland. Our “pick-up” squad wound up winning the senior class championship competition but in the process I learned two valuable lessons…one, I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought I was compared to others around the country…and two, cherish all those moments to come afterwards when I did get to shine regardless of the competition, the situation, etc.

  7. Your basketball coach sounds a lot like the football coach I had in high school. When he wasn’t busy checking out the cheerleaders he liked to watch a certain undersized running back get hammered in spring practice. Still it was a rush getting to play a little on special teams.

  8. Bets…

    That Katz’s deli down there used to pack them in as well.

    And I agree. We Gators went from a period of indescribable joy by winning back to back championships to a dark era. NITsville.

    Slowly but surely, however, Billy D has built that program back to where it needs to be. Their shot is as good as anyone’s this year if they can stay disciplined and headstrong.

    Oh, and wait til you see what we have coming in next year. Ridiculousness.

  9. Aer….

    I wasn’t even allowed to play football growing up. First of all, I was small and second of all, my mom didn’t like how violent the sport was.

    Probably for the better as I can walk without a limp these days.

  10. Chris

    Does boxing or track and field count ?

    Did both in high school as a kid . Loved both , until girls started to interfere with the practices . Can’t get anything done on the track when you’ve a lovely pair of mammary glands bouncing up and down while several females are jogging around a track .

    I’m sorry , but I’m staying way clear of the NBA All Star festivities !

    The game won’t be good and the Dunk Contest , please , chicks bobbing for apples in a vat while wearing nothing but a T-shirt and a thong , piques my interest far more than that crap !

    Say it ain’t so , but the Magic are dead in the water and the sharks are circling ! Turkoglu , ” it was my trainer who told me that substance would be good for that aching pain in my lower back and abdomen ” . No it wasn’t , it was only his hemorrhoids acting up . Hedo Turkoglu has been a complete waste of space on that roster ! Scratch that , the whole damn team has been a waste of space this season !

    Jordan turns 50 this Sunday , and Stern will be gifting him a wonderful present , his Bobcats will be allowed a 25 point differential in each game over the rest of their regular season schedule .

    The Wildcats Nerlens Noel , do you expect him to return to Kentucky next season or go after the money and declare for the 2013 NBA Draft ? Bear in mind he’s just suffered the same injury as Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson . Your thoughts , as he was thought to be a consensus top 5 pick ?

    Tophatal …………

  11. South African track star and double amputee charged with first degree murder of his girlfriend ?

    Well how is his lawyer going to defend his client ?

    If the shoe doesn’t fit then you must acquit . That won’t work and neither will the ploy , if the prosthesis doesn’t then you definitely have to acquit .

    Micky Arison should now devote more time to his cruise ship business . I have yet to hear of a cruise ship passenger who loves to see their own fecal matter and urine either floating in their cabin or in the corridors of their cruise ship .

    I hope that none of the Heat players have that written into their contracts as an incentive that they will have to take a cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines ‘ vessel the Triumph .

    Tophatal ……………

  12. Future stars?
    Kyrie’s already there.
    I’m going w/Kemba Walker and the unibrow, A.D.

    Former stars?
    Yeah, Dwight’s fitting that bill at the moment. I guess 20 mil a year just don’t buy what it used to.

  13. Come on. Don’t be a douche about it. Of course there are more than 2 future stars in the NBA. I just named two who are now going unnoticed.

  14. Does boxing or track and field count ?

    Did that in middle school but got side tracked on the track field once the female athletes and their mammaries got involved .

    Jordan turns 50 on Sunday , and how will the NBA celebrate their biggest ambassador and greatest player ?

    I hear Stern has it mind to make sure that the Bobcats are given a 25 point differential on the remainder of the Bobcats’ schedule as a way looking halfway decent in terms of their season’s ending record .

    Thanks for chiming on the NBA piece , greatly appreciated !

    Man , teams in the NFL are shedding players like flies hovering around fecal matter .

    Tophatal ………

  15. Staying away from the All-Star festivities, Al?

    That’s sacrilege.

    Look, there’s no arguing that the dunk contest has lost it’s luster over the years and the league has yet to do anything about it. Similarly, the skills competition is pretty lame but the three-point shootout is always exciting and even though it sucks, the dunk contest is still a must-watch for the one or two dunks that make us go ahh.

    Stern’s going to be giving the Bobcats a 25-point cushion per game. Do you think that’s enough?

    And it’s a shame about Nerlens. Pretty gruesome injury. I was obviously watching that game. Jim Rome said it best. The kid’s probably gonna come out in the draft but he was gonna do that anyway, injury notwithstanding. Isn’t that what all Wildcats do these days?

  16. Bleed…

    That’s a far more interesting debate.

    Which stars in the league, were former stars, and are no longer worth a damn? The fallen few.

    Dwight would definitely make that list.

  17. Snake…

    I’ll admit to not having seen much of Mullens play and Clark’s just looking good on a Lakers team full of underachievers.

    Who else ya’ got that I should be on the lookout for? I can’t say the last two drafts have been chock full of talent although Kenneth Faried is definitely turning some heads.

  18. Faried is definitely there. I was just fortunate to see Mullens play 4 times last week. Really, who watches the Bobcats? The 2 best things about watching the Bobcats for me are Mullens’s play and the constant grimace on Jordan’s face. Earl Clark needs to be the permanent Lakers starter. I also predict that IF he ever gets it together, JaVale McGee could be the best big man in the game. I hope he loses that Tragic Bronson tag.

  19. Snake…

    Why in the world are you watching the Bobcats? And if they have so much talent, why can’t they win ballgames?

    I agree with you on McGee although the guy’s clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Guy always looks like he’s stoned, which is possible in the Association. I mean, isn’t everybody?

  20. Jedly…

    I coached youth basketball for one season back in the day.

    Putting in the smaller guys, particularly when I substituted them in for better players, really boosted their confidence.

    They’d look at me and say “You want me to go in for HIM, coach?” and I’d be like “Get your butt in the game.”

  21. Why am I watching the Bobcats? Simply put,they’re the Grizzlies from 4 years ago. They’re going to be better real soon. If they had a great teaching coach it would speed up the process. Kemba Walker is the real deal and Byron Mullens is an exciting player to watch. Even Bismack Biyombo is a beast on the glass for a young guy. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looks good. Even Ben Gordon is still scary at times. If I lived in Charlotte, I’d be at a lot of their games.

  22. Chris

    Pistorius claims he thought it was an intruder breaking to the house . The forensics apparently suggests otherwise , his girlfriend had five bullets pumped into her body at close range . The police are treating it as first degree and premeditated murder .

    Why would I should I be interested in the All Star Festivities ? Its not as if any of the games are competitive to begin with ! It’s simply another shell game on the part of the NBA to have the fans spend money on a meaningless event that carries no incentives for the participants . So what are your thoughts on it all ?


    There’s not a chance in in hell of the Bobcats getting any better in the next two or three years . They’re a bad team all round , as an offense and from a defensive standpoint and the team’s stats shows that to be a fact .

    Tophatal ………

  23. Chris

    This should tell you what we already know in light of the NFL and the buffoons who run the league . Bear in mind they have only come off a league mandated lockout where the league NFL had been asking for major concessions from the union NFLPA .

    Roger Goodell made $29.4 million in 2011

    By Darren Rovell of ESPN

    There was a time during the NFL lockout in 2011 that Roger Goodell was voluntarily earning a $1 salary. With a collective bargaining agreement eventually reached with the players, and only one preseason game missed, Goodell’s compensation went up quite a bit.

    A copy obtained of the league’s tax return confirms the commissioner earned $29.49 million in 2011. The league’s general counsel, Jeff Pash, who also reduced his salary to $1 during the lockout, came away with $8.8 million in total compensation.

    Goodell earned $11.6 million in 2010.

    “The NFL is the most successful and best-managed sports league in the world,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement obtained by The Sports Business Daily. “This is no small part due to Roger’s leadership and the value he brings to the table in every facet of the sport and business of the league. His compensation reflects that.”

    The Sports Business Daily was the first to report the numbers.

    Goodell’s compensation likely makes him the highest-paid commissioner in sports. Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and NBA commissioner David Stern earn in the range of $20 million annually.



    And fans thought that the NFL had their best interest at heart ? Goodell couldn’t give a $hit about the fans or anyone else , meanwhile apathetic and anal retentive a$s wipes buy into his Stern’s bulls#hit about their business template financial frugality .

    Tophatal …………..

    Let me know what you think ?

    Tophatal ………

  24. Al…

    I had to work last night and was only able to catch bits and pieces of the competitions.

    I will watch the game itself though. I don’t mind them abandoning a little defense for the sake of dunking all over the place.

    Heck, it’s not like that many teams in the league play defense anyway.

  25. Bobcats in the playoffs in 2 more seasons. They really do need a good coach. I think Isiah Thomas is available. Wink, wink.

  26. Yeah, Snake, not sure MJ would ever hire Isiah… and not sure Isiah would even work for him.

    Someone tell MJ I’m available. Snake, you can be my Tex Winter.

  27. I know you are, but what am I?
    I know you are, but what am I?
    I know you are, but what am I?
    Huh, huh…

  28. Chris

    Are you trying to suggest that the NBA’s All Star Festivities are a worthwhile endeavor ? Hell that’s the reason po#rn comes in handy at times like this ! Pardon the pun , but it beats anything that the NBA can serve up as an offering !

    And yes , Goodell has seen his salary increase 300 % in the last three years at a time when he and the owners were asking for serious concessions for the union (NFLPA). Yet I read absolute bull#hit in the print media as to the financial health of the game !

    With the Pistorious story , ” if the shoes or prosthetics don’t fit then you must acquit ” .

    Reeva Steenkamp was attracted to serial abusers , as has been recorded concerning her life . Her previous relation was one where she was a victim of abuse , and it was the same in her relationship with the track star , with it being on record where law enforcement had been called to the home on more than one occasion .

    Tophatal …………..

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