I fell in love with college basketball because of a game I didn’t even watch live.
My hometown Siena Saints played mighty Ohio State in Dayton in the first round of the NCAA tournament in March of 2009. The game was slated to tip off at 9:40 eastern, past 9-year-old Kevin’s bedtime. My twin brother and I put up a fight, but were forced to wait until the morning to watch the game.
It turned out to be a pretty good one. Siena beat OSU in double overtime on 74-72 a shot by Ronald Moore that I’ll never forget, a shot Bill Raftery referred to as “Onions! Double order!“.
I was officially hooked.
At that time, I didn’t understand how rare it was to have a mid-major like Siena become that good. It was all I knew. No amount of losses in the years that followed could deter me from wanting to go to every Siena game I could. I started watching not just Siena games and whichever big games were on TV that night, but the rest of the MAAC on ESPN3 on my iPod Touch. I’d sit on the bus on the way to school in the mornings on days Siena played and analyze the other team’s stats, figuring out which players were going to cause problems for Jimmy Patsos’ teams.
I launched CBB Central in February of 2016 as a junior in high school, partially because at that point I knew I wanted to write about sports in college but I had nothing on my college application to show that interest. I’d write a recap from home of a game I was watching that night. A lot of what I wrote early on was pretty terrible, and for your own sakes I encourage you not to go looking for it. But it was a start, and I slowly but surely learned the ropes of writing about college basketball.
I hit 100 Twitter followers around Christmas of my senior year of high school, about 10 months after starting. By my graduation, I was up to 1,000. And when I got to Northwestern as a freshman 800 miles from home, I had 2,000. I started to meet people in the sport — coaches, media members and independent bloggers like me who just loved the game.
That fall, I covered my first game with a media credential: Loyola-Chicago hosting Samford in a November buy game. That Loyola team turned out to be pretty darn good.
Covering college basketball as a full-time college student had its challenges. There were times I wouldn’t go out with my friends on Friday night because I was credentialed for noon tip the next day. Times I’d have to choose between writing a conference preview and studying for a midterm. Times I’d be be watching a game on my phone and tweeting while in a friend’s room hanging out. I did all these things a few too many times in my four years at Northwestern.
I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Of course, this website, its associated podcast, and the work I did on Twitter was never going to be able to support me as a full-time career. Rather, it was my own created seat at the table, a way to help prove that I belonged in this business.
I’m unbelievably excited to announce that journey is complete.
As many of you know, the reason I haven’t written a story on this site since the end of November is that I was interning at Sports Illustrated throughout most of this college basketball season. I got to write about Loyola-Chicago’s second elite team in four years, the story of Max Abmas, how Abilene Christian became the sweethearts of March, and a whole lot more.
If you liked those stories, then good news: I’m not going anywhere. Starting on July 12, I’m joining Sports Illustrated full-time as a writer and reporter. I’ll be involved with a few different projects, but one thing I’ll be doing plenty of is covering college basketball. It’s a dream-come-true job for me and I can’t wait to get started.
It would be impossible to thank everyone who has had a hand in this journey. Friends, media members, coaches, professors, fans… Thank you! I couldn’t have done it without all of you. Of course, a huge thanks to Ryan Hunt and the entire SI team for making this job a reality.
Moving forward, all my written work will be at SI, and I’m super excited about the quality of coverage of college basketball we’ll be able to produce there. But all good things come to an end, and unfortunately this is the end (at least for now) of CBBCentral.com. The site will remain active for the foreseeable future, but no new content will be posted. To all who’ve read this site once or 100 times, again, the only words I have are thank you.
The CBB Central Podcast with Brad and I will continue, so you’ll have that to look forward to. And of course, I hope you all subscribe to SI to support not just me but an entire staff of incredibly talented people.
This may be the end of this site, but it’s only the beginning of my journey covering this sport.
I can’t imagine the grin 15-year-old Kevin would have on his face if I could go back and tell him on one of those bus rides that one day he’d get paid to write about college basketball. I could also wipe that grin away by telling him Siena still hasn’t been back to the NCAA tournament and Rick Pitino is now coaching Iona, but I won’t spoil his fun.
There’s one thing I’d definitely tell young teenager Kevin if I could: The decision he was about to make to start this website was the best decision he’d ever make.