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March 6, 2013Watch and read what Indiana senior Derek Elston had to say to the fans at Assembly Hall following his last home game as a Hoosier.
Transcript of the speech:
Thank you, guys. Thank you. First off, I remember sitting over there (on the bench) as a freshman, and it was nothing like this. I'm talking about being in front of at least 10,000 people, and it was nothing like that my freshman year, so I appreciate you guys sticking around to listen to our stories.
This is definitely a bittersweet time in my life. It's bitter because I realize my basketball career at Indiana is coming to an end, and it really is hard to say goodbye to something that you really, truly have depended on through tough times and good times. Basketball has always been there for me, and it's really hard to say goodbye. The sweet part is we still have a lot of basketball left. You guys have definitely made this trip worthwhile. From freshman year when we were hardly able to pay you guys to come in here to last year when we went to the tourney, having you guys lined up and cheering us on right before we got to the tournament games. Then there's now. This year we had to kick 500 people out of this place just to make sure there was no fire emergency or whatever with Hoosier Hysteria. That's unbelievable to know not only where we have come from, but also where Hoosier Nation has come from, so we really thank you.
I want to take the time now to thank a few people. My coaches, starting back in seventh and eighth grade. Coach Grimmel, those guys were there the first time I ever got my first letter from a college. They were really the guys who told me that college was a big option for me. Going into high school, Coach Ken Day, who I know is here, Coach Daugherty, who texted me and told me he was going to be here. Those guys kept me on the right course. Even when I came in with (Kelvin) Sampson and things didn't turn out right, Coach Crean was hired. Not five minutes after he was hired, I was taken out of class and put into Coach Daugherty's class. We just sat there and talked, and he said I should stay here. He told me if I didn't, I would be making the worst decision of my life. I really thank him for keeping my mind on it.
Now, I really want to thank Coach Crean. Coach Crean, you know as well as I do that me and my dad have had on and off times. I haven't been able to stay in touch the way that I would like, and you are that father figure. You were there to kind of keep my head on straight from the beginning. My dad instilled in me discipline, and you kept harping on it. You were there for the passing of my grandpa. You've been there through all my family issues. The thing is with me, everybody knows I'm kind of a goofy guy, but you've been the one to keep me level-headed and making sure I'm doing the right things at the right time. I couldn't ask for anybody else to do that for me. So I really appreciate that. Thank you, Coach. (Elston and Crean hug).
Along with that, Coach (Tim) Buckley, me and you both know we've butted heads a lot, but you've always been the guy I've gone to no matter what. If I was getting yelled at by Coach Crean or any other assistant, you grabbed me off to the side and told me what I was doing wrong. The thing was that you never sugarcoated it. I think that's why me and you had such a great connection. My father was from North Carolina and that great system, and when I was growing up, he instilled in me that things had to be said the right way. You could never sugarcoat it, and you never did. I thank you very much.
I also want to thank (former strength and conditioning coach Jeff Watkinson). I know he's not here right now. I want to thank Coach (Je'Nay) Jackson. Those guys have had to deal with me. My upper body is pretty big, and my lower body just isn't. I've been working with these guys the last four years, and that's all we've been trying to do. We're trying to get me stronger in each and every way. We've battled through surgeries, this knee surgery. Especially you, Coach Jackson, every day you were getting me in there and working out and trying to get me back on the court as soon as possible. I thank you a lot for that. Thank you.
Now, I definitely want to give a special thanks to Mattie White and Marni Mooney. These are my advisors, and I don't think you guys understand that when I first got here to college, I never thought I would graduate, honestly. It's just a part of life. My mom and I had butted heads about that. But Marni was the one to not only get me to graduate early but to keep pushing me and pushing me to get my Master's degree. Like I said, I never thought I would graduate. I never would have gotten my Master's degree without Marni. I'm getting my Master's degree in four years here. (applause) Thank you. It's not only the Master's degree. School is an important part of my life, but I guess I don't take it as seriously as I should, but whenever me and Marni had some free time, just coming in and sitting down and talking about old stories, drawing up pictures for her, talking about the craziest things, we would. She has a million stories to tell, and I really hope she doesn't (laughter). But the fact that Marni was there and got me to graduate with a Master's degree in four years, that's an unbelievable feeling. So thank you, Marni.
Next, I want to thank my family for being here. I'm very emotional any time I get to be around my dad just because me and my dad have been through so much together from AAU back when I was four to my dad coaching me when I was six, I feel really honored right now that he is on this court with me. A lot of the times, me and him thought I might be wearing No. 32 and looking into a sea of light blue and white (North Carolina colors), but that dream fell short, and I'm so glad that I'm wearing No. 32 in cream and crimson. The thing with me was I was always trying to be like my dad, and I realized when I got here-I think it was Coach Buckley who set me down-I realized that I had to kind of write my own story instead of looking at it through my father. He was a great athlete. He did so many things at North Carolina. Coach Buckley kind of told me it was time to write my own story. The fact that he's here, and we both get to enjoy me wearing a 32, it's one of my proudest days of my life to have him up here with me.
To my brothers, my sisters, my stepbrother Zach, these guys are always the first ones to ask me for tickets (laughter). The reason they ask is they want to be a part of this experience with me. I've never had a home game or even away games where these guys aren't here. To know these guys are always by my side, it's an unbelievable feeling. So thank you guys.
To my mom? (gets choked up) I've been here for four years, and I think my mom has probably missed two games. (His mother corrects him that she has only missed one) She has only missed one game of my whole career. To have someone like that? I'm not going to stand up here and say I'm the best player, but to have my mom come and support me every night, give me a kiss before every game, tell me she loves me after every game, you don't know what that does for me. I don't have a lot of people in my life, and I'm sure glad I'm sitting up here with this group of people right now. So if you're going to make a big applause, I would really like it to be on this line.
That said, I'm up here with three of my best? well, two of my best friends. I'm up here with two of my best friends. (laughter) I'm not only up here with two of my best friends. I'm up here with two guys who came in here with me. We did an interview right back there when we first got here, and we always said to the reporters that we were going to be the group to bring it back. Everybody kind of looked at us like we were crazy. I don't think we really knew what we were getting ourselves into, and I know everybody has kind of heard it before, but what we've done to instill in these guys coming up, and even from the guys before us - Kory (Barnett), Dan (Moore), Tom (Pritchard), Verdell (Jones III), Matt (Roth) - those guys instilled in us what we're instilling in this group. I know we three sit up here right now, and think about what life was like our freshman year. Now we come out to a sold-out crowd every single game, and I thank you guys every day. I know we took care of business, for the most part, with something on this side of the wall (the conference championship banner side). Now, we have more games to play, but here in a few weeks, it's time to go take care of something on that wall. Thank you, guys. You've made this so fun for me. I love you guys.