The fourth year was going to be better than the third year and Derek predicted that they would be 12-16, that is, until his best guard broke his foot during the fourth game of the season and sat the rest of the year with a medical redshirt. With another key injury and another player becoming academically ineligible, it was a disappointing fourth year. I was ready for that season to end. I think the only time Derek laughed that whole year was when our dog, Baskerville, ate a piece of chicken with hot sauce on it. Baskerville had this habit of standing on his back paws and taking food off the table and he always did it when no one was looking. To teach him a lesson we put a piece of chicken on the table smothered in hot sauce and when he tried to eat it he started sneezing and making all kinds of funny faces. I had never seen Derek laugh so hard. He was laughing so hard he was crying. I really think it was his way to release all the pent up frustrations he had been feeling that year.
It is difficult to have a bad year but it is especially difficult when you had high hopes going into the season. After the last game of his fourth year, Derek was already preparing for his fifth year. This was a big year because this was the last year of his contract. He was excited for his fifth year because this was the best recruiting class he had put together, his big man from St. Louis was coming, his guard would be back from his medical redshirt, and his young players were now upperclassmen with confidence. He kept a good relationship with his big man who was now in his senior year in high school. He was having a great season and being noticed by some major programs that couldn’t believe he had signed to such a small program. That is why Derek wanted him to sign before his senior season because he knew how good he was going to be and he knew some other schools would want him. He was a good kid and he really liked Derek and he knew Derek was the first one to see his potential so that is why he wanted to play for him. The kid had a great high school career and was planning on taking summer school classes at Western Illinois in June to get ahead in his studies. Two weeks before he was to attend summer school he called Derek and said, “Coach, we need to talk. I have been talking to some other players and people have been telling me I could go to a high major school. I have been thinking and made my decision that I will sit out and go to two years of junior college and then go high major because I am as good as these other guys. It is nothing against you but I just want to play in a bigger conference. Maybe I shouldn’t have signed so early and taken my time to think about it.” To explain, if a kid signs a letter of intent to a Division I program he cannot change his mind and sign with another Division I program for two years. He must go to prep school or play at a junior college. This rule is to keep kids from changing their minds at the last minute. Derek was in shock because he had just talked to the kid two weeks prior and the kid said he was ready for summer school and excited about coming. I am sure people in St. Louis were getting to him and telling him he was too good to be going to such a small school and that he could play for a major program. I understand he is just a kid and the recruiting process is very complex. I can understand how confusing it can be for a kid and how he can succumb to the pressure especially when friends and family start giving their opinions. But, don’t act like everything is great the entire year and then two weeks before you are to show up on campus you drop a bombshell. He left Derek in an awful predicament. Derek built/ recruited his entire team around this big man and then he reneges. Not only does he abandon Derek but since he waited until the last minute to do so it only left Derek 3 weeks to find another big man before the signing period was over. And, since it was so late in the year all of the talented players had already made commitments to other schools. This is what Derek gets for being good at his job. This is what he gets for being able to spot talent years before anyone else. What good does it do if the kid is just going to bolt anyway? That is why it is so hard to recruit at low major schools. Kids want to play at high major schools with TV exposure and Nike gear and immaculate practice facilities – not at schools that have to share gym time with the women’s team. Kids want to play at schools that fly to games on chartered planes not drive to games on buses. Kids want to play at schools that have a good alumni base so they can get a job after college not at schools where most of the kids major in agriculture. Low major schools are at such a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting.