The team that rewrote the history books this season filed its final chapter in the 2011-12 season with a 62-53 loss to Marquette March 17 and the less than desirable ending in the third round of the NCAA Tournament is still resonating with the team.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever recuperate,” Head Coach Steve Prohm said. “I’m still frustrated, but you’ve got to move on at some point. Once we get the workouts going I’ll be able to move past it a little bit but I don’t know if I’ll ever completely move past it or forget it.”
The Racers ended the season with a 31-2 record, tying the program record of 31 wins, went undefeated on the road with a 13-0 record for the first time in 87 years of Murray State basketball – the only team in the nation to avoid a loss away from home, were ranked in the AP/ESPN Top-25 polls for 12 straight weeks and Prohm became one of the most successful rookie coaches in history with the 23-0 start to the season.
Despite the records, losing hurts for numerous reasons, Prohm said.
“(Losing hurts) just because you hurt for those guys,” Prohm, OVC and Basketball Times Coach of the Year, said. “Losing hurts because you feel like you let people down and losing hurts because the season ends and you don’t get to coach those three seniors anymore, and then losing hurts because these guys worked so hard and they were such great role models and they were really a great team. That’s why losing hurts.”
Prohm, whose contract with Murray State was extended Monday through 2016, is not the only one feeling the effects of the team’s second loss of the year.
“My emotions were very strong (after the loss),” senior forward Ivan Aska said. “I was just kind of heartbroken and it seemed like my career was over but I continued to stay strong and work hard – I worked out even when I was on Spring Break.”
The three seniors will graduate as the winningest class in program history with a 104-28 record, but senior guard Jewuan Long, along with Prohm, said they haven’t watched much basketball since the Marquette game.
“It was hard for me, I couldn’t watch the NCAA games for a few days,” Long, OVC Defensive Player of the Year, said. “I refused to watch the games and it’s still a little hard for me to actually watch the games, I’ll try to watch a little bit every once in a while just to see the score but I don’t think I’ve sat down and watch a full game since we lost.”
Long’s late father, Elmer Long, died after suffering a stroke during his son’s junior year of high school but Long knows what his dad would say if he were alive.
“I definitely think he would say he is proud of me,” Long said. “I handled a lot throughout my career before he passed and I know that is one of the first things he would say to me, that he was proud of me. It hasn’t been a smooth road in college in my position, things didn’t always go the way I wanted it to go so to have a season as a team that we did and make history, just all the things that we did this year, I know that he’d be proud of me and he’d be bragging everywhere, everyday.”
The elder Long wouldn’t be the only one bragging on his son or the Racers, as Racer Nation has rallied in full support of the team.
“You get on Twitter, you get on Facebook and everyone in Murray still has your back and they tell you how great of a season you had and how much they appreciate everything we did for Murray State and the community,” Long said. “I think we did a lot of things for Murray. I believe Murray was already on the map but we definitely highlighted it. It was a very special season for us, we broke many records this year.”
This season has been special for Racer fans as well.
“It’s given me a reason to wear my blue and gold on almost a daily basis at school, which is in very close proximity to WKU,” Elizabeth Rowe, 2007 Murray State graduate and employee of the Logan County school system, said. “It’s also made it easier to spread the word about how awesome the school and community is. I love Murray and I love telling people about it. I’m very proud to be a Racer.”
Fans termed the season incredible, inspiring and created memories to last a lifetime as it united the school and community.
“This season means several things,” Sara Bushong, sophomore from Greenwood, Ind., said. “Never underestimate a small school against the bigger guys and our boys have way more heart than most. They just play the game they love and walk away – win or lose – with their eyes up.”
Prohm, the coach who captivated the hearts of all Murray State fans, hasn’t processed the season as a whole but said the way his team represented the program stands out in the midst of the special season.
“Just the way the guys handled themselves all season long, the way they gave back to the community, the way they let everybody be a part of it and the way they impacted everybody,” Prohm said. “I just think our guys did an unbelievable job of embracing the spotlight the right way and then letting everybody be a part of it. I’m really proud of those guys.”
The first year head coach is upbeat regarding the next season of Racer basketball.
“I’m excited about it,” Prohm said. “We have a good group of guys coming in. Dexter Fields sat out (this season) and obviously expectations will be high for us but we’ve got to stay even-keeled and we’ve got to work extremely hard and keep totally focused on what we want to do and that just gets better each day. We can’t look too far ahead, we’ve got to stay grounded and do the same things we did this year and that’s just try to prove people wrong every day.”
Outgoing team members are also excited for the program’s future.
“They’re going to have a good year, especially with Isaiah coming back and Ed and Stacy and Brandon and all of them,” Aska said. “Jaylen and Harley are working hard and I am going to be supporting them no matter what. They are going to have a great season. I love them all and I think as a team they will go a long way.”