by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
When Reggie Hearn looks back on his Senior Night in a few years, maybe he’ll smile at the standing ovation he received after fouling out and walking off the Welsh-Ryan court for the last time.
But not tonight; not in this moment.
“I was a little pissed off, so I didn’t give a whole lot of credence to it,” Hearn said. “I’m sure I would have appreciated it more if it had been going out on a good note, and I’m sure it will sink in after the game now, and I’ll appreciate what the fans did for me, the support they had for me. But at the time, I was pissed.”
It’s tough not to be pissed after any loss, especially a 66-59 loss to Penn State on Senior Night in what was likely NU’s best chance to get a win on the remaining schedule. It’s tough not to be pissed when you don’t have one of your better nights in your finale and when you have to watch the last three minutes and five seconds of your college career from the bench.
Hearn had every right to be pissed, but the fans were far from it.
While the outcome of the game certainly mattered in that moment, the scoreboard tends to eventually become trivial in the greatest moments sports have to offer. It would have been nice for NU to win this one on Senior Night, but ultimately, there was nothing tangible to play for — just pride.
When Hearn walked off the court for the final time, he received an ovation worthy of the remarkable career he’s had, one that exceeds the outcome of Thursday night’s game and the outcome of the entire season.
Hearn’s career at NU has been well-documented. He came in as a walk-on and played a total of 72 minutes in his first two years. As coach Bill Carmody said, “Reggie’s story has been told — about me being dumb and not playing him for two years.”
Last year, Hearn got his chance and was the cliché “glue guy” for a team containing stars John Shurna and Drew Crawford. He proved was a tough, versatile player, and a talented one, at that. This year, he became the leader of a team desperately searching for one after a rash of injuries.
From the end of the bench to the last one off it for Senior Day introductions — the Reggie Hearn story has been quite the story, indeed.
You have to feel for Hearn and the other seniors this season. This was supposed to be NU’s best chance at making the NCAA Tournament in a long time, with a solid recruiting class and talented players like Drew Crawford, JerShon Cobb and Jared Swopshire playing around him.
But as Hearn’s story shows better than anything, things don’t always go as planned. Instead of ending this year in the Big Dance or even the NIT, Northwestern will be sitting at home watching postseason basketball for the first time in Hearn’s career. It was a disappointing ending, but not an ending that defined his time at NU.
Hearn has been through a lot at NU — the rise and the fall, so to speak. He’s been on a team that got closer to March Madness than any other team in Wildcats history. He’s been part of huge upsets and part of heartbreaking losses. He saw the peak of the program and the swift drop-off.
But in the last two years, in particular, Hearn has been a steadying influence on a program that seems to be on a constant roller coaster ride. He delivered on highs and he stayed strong through the lows. There’s not much more the NU fan base could have expected when a walk-on guard from Fort Wayne, Ind., arrived on campus four years ago.
Hearn didn’t go out on top, but his career certainly won’t be defined by how it ended. And while it may not have happened exactly how he wanted, Thursday night’s standing ovation was a fitting end to a pretty remarkable career.