To the seniors of the 2020-2021 San Diego State Aztecs men’s basketball team:
Thank you for all you have done. In a world gone crazy with a pandemic, you provided a sense of joy. You gave us as fans something to look forward to every week. Fans will never know all the things you did, all the sacrifices you made, to be able to play a game you love to play, and we love to watch.
I’m writing this after a tough loss to Syracuse. It is very tempting to wallow in self-pity or be angry or critical, but that wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be fair to myself, and most of all, it wouldn’t be fair to you.
You guys had a great year. It’s very difficult to win the conference twice in a row, and you did that. It’s tough to win the conference tournament, and you did that. It’s extremely tough to do both in the same year, and you did it. Every single one of you has a bright basketball future ahead of you. One loss doesn’t change that.
Obviously, the whole team deserves credit, but the seniors are the ones who are (probably) leaving, so this letter is mostly addressed to them.
Since I started writing this letter a few weeks ago, most of you (the seniors) have either announced or alluded to the fact that you have played your last game as an Aztec. It is a very bittersweet feeling for me and the rest of Aztec Nation. I’m sure, as we all know, you will kill it wherever you go, but selfishly wish you would return so that you could kill it in the red and black one more time. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we wish you nothing but the best.
To the seniors who transferred in:
Joshua, Terell, and Trey, the saddest part about seeing you leave is that we didn’t get to see you play for longer. The year(s) you were here saw a lot of success and brought Aztec fans a lot of joy. You were a part of the most successful two-year span in Aztec history (in terms of winning percentage.) We are all incredibly lucky that you decided to transfer to SDSU, and hopefully, you feel the school and the fans have treated you as well as you’ve treated us. We will never forget the way we felt when Gomez would light it up from deep, the way Tomaic would step up with a big play whenever the team needed him most, or the way Pulliam took over the entire Mountain West Tournament and led the Aztecs to finally getting revenge over those Utah State losses.
To the four-year seniors:
Matt and Jordan, it has been an amazing four years. Four separate Mountain West championships (two tournaments, two regular seasons). That’s something few have accomplished. Each of you is in the top 10 in the Aztec record books in terms of wins. That’s despite playing in two separate seasons that were shortened by a pandemic. Each of you are winners. It will be very bittersweet for me personally to watch you go because I started AztecBreakdown during your freshman seasons. I’ve never done it without you, and the realization that next year I’ll still be doing this while you’re off achieving greatness elsewhere is a weird feeling. Not a bad one, but a weird one.
Jordan will be remembered among names like Kawhi Leonard and Jamaal Franklin for the way he worked tirelessly in the gym. Those names set up the program’s success for the next decade, and future teams will reference Jordan’s work ethic as something you need to have to be successful. A friend of mine recently described Jordan as a “coach’s dream.” Someone who is always ready and willing to put in the work and who saw the results because of it. Your legacy will live on not just through the record books, not just through the highlights where you seemingly can’t miss from deep, but in the young guys. The young guys will think of you when they get tired. The guys who will remember watching how hard you would work and the success it brought will reach deeper in themselves in their own pursuit of success.
As for Matt, you are a top 10 player in the history of this program. Arguably top 5. Your name is all over the record books at SDSU. You had a great year and a great career. I know winning is the only thing that’s ever mattered to you, and you did a lot of that as an Aztec. More than almost anyone else who has ever donned the red and black. That’s what you will be remembered for. People will mention the records. The points, the rebounds, the assists, but what it all comes down to is your will to win. The fact that you did anything the team needed to achieve the win. Your legacy will be one of putting ego aside and doing whatever it took to get the win.
To both of you, thank you for a great four years. Your leadership, determination, work ethic have all been an inspiration for me and many other Aztec fans.