Saturday in Tempe, Sun Devil basketball’s seniors were honored before the last home game of their careers.
Jonathan Gilling, Shaq McKissic and Bo Barnes each posed for pictures and shook head coach Herb Sendek’s hand, joggling legs a bit to stay warm — the Shooter, the Slammer and Mr. Clutch.
Hundreds of players have passed through Wells Fargo — some of their jerseys hang in the rafters still. It’s unlikely these three seniors will achieve the same in their respective basketball careers. In a season that’s often been very forgettable, one in which superstars and legends haven’t really emerged.
But maybe there’s a few reasons ASU will remember these three anyway.
Jonathan Gilling doesn’t look like the type to knock down cold-blooded triples without a blink of hesitance, but he is.
He’s 6-foot-7 and very, very blonde, a point guard out of Denmark who morphed into his shooting role once he got to America.
Gilling broke through in 2012, after he started averaging about 29 minutes per game. He shot 41 percent from behind the arc in those games, opening some eyes in the process.
In 2014, he became the fifth most accurate shooter in ASU’s history from three at 43.4 percent, and this season he hit at least three triples in 11 games and a career-high 7-of-11 against Maryland.
He’s the consistent outlier; the extraneous variable needed for the “oomph”, if such a thing exists.
He’s started just two games this season but will almost always finish them. He’ll go in a game anytime, and always when the Sun Devils need to knock some buckets down.
Gilling has hit 52 threes this season. In his last game at Wells Fargo Arena, he wanted to hit a few more.
Shaq McKissic — boosting poster sales across the Valley since 2013.
McKissic admitted early in the season his team plays better when he attacks the basket — when he takes control.
What if he hadn’t?
In trouble with the law and living in a car in Washington, McKissic came to Arizona State in desperate need of a second chance.
Once he got one, he became a leader — of his life and his team. Where he used to fluctuate, he has become dependable. He’s a go-to guy now, and a steady one. Where ASU has wavered often this season with a roster full of youngsters, McKissic has not changed; a stabilizer among the season’s early roster rotation and green crop of newcomers.
The 6-foot-5 forward ended his career with the Sun Devils after posting a career high 23-points against Stanford last week and 21 points against Cal Saturday. He’s maintained a solid 11.5 points per game average all season.
Plus, you know, these:
This #HARVvsASU halftime score update is presented by Shaq McKissic's sweet dunk.
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) December 28, 2014
McKissic’s Twitter bio says he’s “#TeamBoBarnes,” and the rest of Sun Devil Nation is too.
The Foreman of the Fading Three, the Lord of the Last Seconds, the Kaiser of Clutch — Bo Barnes’ whopping knockdowns in crucial situations would make you think he’s a shock-jock with swagger; outspoken and cocksure.
Barnes is like finding an M&M in a bucket of raisins — you didn’t expect it, but it’s pretty dang swell.
Still, after his years with ASU, people never quite remember that the modest Mr.-Nice-Guy has the power to change the outcome of a game off the bench.
His seismograph would read a lot like his stat lines — quiet for a couple of weeks and then a massive spike; a quake of 3-pointers, most in crunch time.
Barnes rarely averages over 25 minutes per game and he always comes off the bench. But in 12 games of 25 minutes or less, he’s scored at least 8 points — and in nine of those he’s scored in double digits.
And then there was that gnarly 28-foot jumper that sealed a second-straight home win against Arizona in February:
ASU's Bo Barnes had some distance on that back-breaking 3 at the end of today's game. pic.twitter.com/HAyTM6N0bt
— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) February 8, 2015
That face you make when Bo Barnes hits a shot from the parking lot to seal the win against U of A. pic.twitter.com/1vTbIpGTzG
— Logan Winter (@loganwinter21) February 10, 2015
That shot — and that win — remains a pivotal part of an Arizona State season that was floundering.
And from an M&M off the bench, too. How about that?
The Last Game
ASU’s three seniors could feel ready to pass the torch, maybe not.
The Shooter, the Slammer and Mr. Clutch will head into Pac-12 tournament play and an uncertain future from there. After they stepped off the court Saturday afternoon, that was it. Thousands of hours in the gym, shooting drill after shooting drill, rallies, upsets, bitter losses and thrilling, unforgettable victories have gotten them to this point — and then it was over.
It’s a tough thing, to leave a home that’s helped shape them into something more than they were before. These three seniors may even be a little frustrated with their middleweight season and its imminent, abrupt end — though it did come with a solid win.
Yet despite what the final win-loss tally reads, maybe these guys will be remembered less for the ‘big picture’ and more for the moments — the quiet shooting ascension, the flushes, the 3-pointers from outer space.
Maybe, though they squeaked off their home hardwood for the final time Saturday, they won’t ever truly leave it.