DANVILLE — These are the moments all basketball players live for, and when their opportunity comes, they don’t want to miss out on the chance to have their “One Shining Moment.”
The regular season hadn’t gone the way Essex County College (Newark, N.J.) freshman Denzel Christian had hoped it would go, at least as it was reflected in his personal statistics. At the same time, he was on a team that had won 27 games in his first year away from a memorable high school career. All he needed was patience and trust in coach Corey Lowery when the head coach told Christian his time would come.
“There were games where he was upset because he didn’t play a lot, but he just kept working hard,” Lowery said. “You can see he doesn’t say much, and those are great types of players to have. You see the type of resolve that they are going to have. Are they going to say, ‘Forget this, I can go somewhere else and play,’ or are they going to continue to work hard? I just kept telling him, your day is going to come. Your shot is going to come.”
In fact, that was the message to the 6-foot-6, 195-pound Plainfield, New Jersey native right before the Wolverines took the floor for Friday night’s NJCAA Division II men’s national basketball tournament semifinal game at Danville Area Community College’s Mary Miller Gymnasium.
Lowery couldn’t have been more correct as he watched Christian lead Essex County to a 75-67 win over Wake Technical Community College (Raleigh, N.C.) to advance the Wolverines to tonight’s 7:30 p.m. championship game against Phoenix (Ariz.) College.
“We told him,” Lowery said. “We absolutely told him. We told him before the game that we thought that Denzel was going to have a big game because the team that we were playing, there were players similar to him. They are slender build, high-energy guys, athletic guys ... I said, ‘Denzel, you are going to be big.’