BOZICH: Siva, Hulls, Watford Reminders It's 'College' Basketball
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Chances are that many people are going to remember Peyton Siva by how many basketball games the University of Louisville wins over the next three, four or even five weekends.
He can start putting an exclamation point on his legacy if U of L claims at least a share of a Big East regular-season title by defeating Notre Dame Saturday. Another Big East Tournament title next week in Madison Square Garden would help. And then there is the stuff that always defines the season in the NCAA Tournament.
You know the checklist. You probably already have it out.
That's just not my checklist.
Siva, like Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford at Indiana, has reminded me there are still guys who take the college part of college basketball as seriously as they take the pick-and-roll. They're not here simply to audition for the Golden State Warriors.
It will be Senior Day at the KFC Yum! Center Saturday, and don't be surprised if Siva reaches for the Kleenex the way Hulls and Watford needed them in Assembly Hall Tuesday night.
These guys haven't simply invested eight months on their way to a paycheck in whatever manner they end up making a living. They have invested four of the best years of their lives on campus – the same way that Wes Unseld, Darrell Griffith, Quinn Buckner, Steve Alford and so many of the other great players at both schools once did.
That's something to celebrate because it isn't always something the current basketball culture celebrates.
Not the way these guys have done it.
For Hulls, Watford and fellow IU senior Derek Elston that meant bringing Indiana back from the slagheap of college basketball – and leaving with degrees packed in their travel bags. That tidbit was forgotten in the post-mortem at Indiana Tuesday night after the Hoosiers failed to close out an undisputed Big Ten championship against Ohio State, the way they were expected to.
Blame the ol' winning, winning, winning thing. Even substantive achievement gets buried by the scoreboard. It shouldn't. But it does. The world obsessed on why Indiana cut down the nets instead of the messages the three IU seniors shared after they were given a microphone at the Senior Night ceremony.
Siva has dealt with similar issues at Louisville. People remember that he came to town from Seattle billed as a McDonalds's all-American, and he's still hanging around four seasons later. That's not supposed to happen.
Some have blamed his jump shot. Others have picked on his silly fouls or decision-making.
Siva has not blamed anything. He never will. He's been too busy enjoying the ride.
Peyton Siva has developed friendships with Rick Pitino, Mike Marra, Stephen Van Treese, Preston Knowles and many others that will last the rest of his life.
He won't be named Big East player of the year, but that should be a footnote to the other recognition Siva has already earned: Peyton Siva is the University of Louisville's first academic all-American since Phil Bond, who finished his career in 1977. Siva, with his 3.37 grade-point average, made the second team, while Hulls made the third.
He will leave town this spring with a sociology degree. Siva has been invited to play in the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational next month. Some are convinced he will not be selected in the NBA Draft. Several scouts have told me they expect him to go in round two. Stay tuned.
But basketball will not define Peyton Siva's life. It never has.
Ask the kids at the Shawnee Boys' and Girls' Club. Siva didn't wait until graduation to put his knowledge to work. He was parked in the West End last summer, sharing his spiritually-based optimism.
"I love working with kids," Siva said. "That's just one thing I've always been passionate about, working with kids, helping them out, volunteering and stuff."
Pitino has talked repeatedly that he has enjoyed his relationship with Siva as much as he enjoyed coaching Billy Donovan at Providence – and Pitino considers Donovan another son. Make room for Peyton Siva in the Pitino Family picture.
"For him to be my coach, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world," Siva said. "I wouldn't have it any other way.
"He pushed me all the time in practice and everything. Yell, scream, whatever.
"I knew at the end of the day, he'd play like a father figure to me. He played that role. If I ever needed anything, if I had a problem, I could come and talk to him whatever I needed. He's been there for me all four years."
And Peyton Siva has been there for Rick Pitino and the University of Louisville for all four years, making certain we remember there's still room for college in college basketball.
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