BEST CLASS ACT - 2001
J.B. Bickerstaff catches the wrong kind of breaks. As the emotional core of the Gopher men's basketball team for the past two years, he saw each season come to an end courtesy of a broken leg. (This after sitting through the program's term-paper scandal.) The second break was especially painful, as it dashed a once-promising college career and dreams of the NBA. Bickerstaff remained loyal to the end, though, moving from team leader to cheerleader and becoming an eloquent spokesman on the local sports talk-show circuit. As the team's season limped toward the National Invitation Tournament, Bickerstaff was on the sidelines, offering cheers, waving towels, and occasionally giving quiet instruction to his very young teammates. The final game of the season in the second round of the NIT tournament saw the Gophers scrap back from an 18-point second-half deficit against Tulsa, only to lose on a last-second shot in overtime. It was missed badly by sophomore Shane Schilling, who hung his head at mid-court. As the fans cheered "J.B.! J.B.!" to bid Bickerstaff a fond farewell, he walked over to Schilling, embraced him for several seconds, turned to the crowd, and started pointing to the young shooter. The crowd sensed the gesture and cheered even louder for Schilling, who just moments before had been the goat.