Every school has a Senior Night. Sometimes one-and-done factories like Kentucky don’t have seniors; but for most, it’s a staple of early March, the last milepost before tournament fever grips the land.
LSU had its Senior Night on Tuesday against Missouri. And to say it was different would be an understatement.
There were seniors, yes, but one of them didn’t play. LSU’s biggest star played, but he isn’t a senior. Still, everyone who strolled into the half-full Pete Maravich Assembly Center knew it was his last home game, too.
And the most senior member of LSU’s basketball family — and we’re not talking about Bob Pettit or his statue this time — also took part in his last home game, painting a picture of an LSU game with his words as he’s done hundreds of times before.
This is all contingent of course on the Tigers not being back here in the PMAC a couple of weeks hence for an NIT home game — you know, on the Road to New York that everyone covets. Or they used to cover it back in the day when seniors always stayed the course and the free-throw lane really looked like a key.
Maybe it was that nagging notion that stuck in the back of the few thousand LSU fans who ventured out for a relatively late tipoff (thanks, SEC Network) on a drippy Tuesday night. They were pretty subdued about the whole thing affair — though everyone was pretty jazzed to see Bruce Hornsby in person when he and his wife Kathy came out with son Keith for his senior ceremony.
Keith Hornsby was dressed in black. His ensemble was rather fitting for the occasion. Hornsby reinjured his sports hernia three games ago at Tennessee and has again been reduced to a spectator’s role. So sad that he couldn’t play out his senior campaign, because he gave it every ounce he had every time he was on the court. Maybe he gave too much at times and his body was destined to give out.
It was Senior Night too for Josh Gray, whose LSU career will best be described as erratic, never exactly finding his niche on team after scoring like a junior-college version of Chris Jackson before landing in Baton Rouge.
It was also Senior Night for Henry Shortess, who played his whole basketball career on this campus at University High then for LSU. He played only five games coming into the Mizzou game, but he was awarded a scholarship earlier this season for his loyalty and determination.
Ben Simmons won’t have a Senior Night, but he did have a last home game Tuesday. Probably. Remember, NIT.
The debate has already raged whether Simmons has been all that, all he was expected to be. People perhaps expected the second coming of Pistol Pete — and they certainly expected at least a trip to the NCAA tournament — though that still isn’t out of the realm of possibility for LSU.
Simmons can improve on his leadership skills, his jump shot and his defense. But he averages 20 points, 12 rebounds and five assists per game and makes awe-inspiring passes. He may not lead LSU basketball to a promised land, but he has delivered on much if not all of his promise as an athlete.
Finally, it was the time for the most senior of LSU basketball seniors to get his due. This was the last home game of any kind in a glorious 36-year broadcasting career for LSU radio play-by-play announcer Jim Hawthorne. He was recognized at halftime at midcourt, where he was properly feted with a standing ovation. Then it was back to work for Hawthorne courtside, telling the story of LSU basketball one more time.
It was all beautiful and bittersweet. And probably not the kind of Senior Night LSU is likely to ever have again.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.