The Start of Great Achievements
Michael J. Graham, S.J.
As if the bare trees, the early nights and the cool temperatures aren’t enough to remind us what time it is here at Xavier University, there are those lines of students strategically camped out at the Cintas Center these days. What time is it at Xavier? It’s basketball time. Coming off last year’s Elite Eight performance, and with our coaching change in July, the men’s basketball program clearly has more questions than answers right now. What kind of senior year will Keith Jackson have? How will Dedrick Finn, Justin Doellman and Justin Cage all step up? What about Brian Thornton, who transferred from Vanderbilt? And those freshmen? We’ve read so much about them; now it’s time to see what they can do.
Though lacking the national spotlight, much the same could be said for the women’s program as well. Will Tara Boothe live up to her preseason acclaim and continue to develop as the terrific player she has shown that she can be? Is this the year for Kevin McGuff to make his own mark with a deep run into the NCAA Tournament? And how about the freshmen? Is one of them going to make us sit back and say, “Well, now....”
Over more than a few years of watching basketball seasons unfold, I have come to see that November is the time for basketball dreams, where hopes soar as high as Keith Jackson. Those hopes are always tested on the hardwood that stretches between now and early March. Where will the ups and downs be this particular year? How much hard work will there be between now and March? How much sweat? How much effort? Determination? Desire? Guts? Grit?
In some ways, I feel a little bit like our basketball players must feel nowadays. As I write these words, we are in the early stages of implementing a strategic plan that will position Xavier University as the nation’s preeminent comprehensive Jesuit university, a place whose commitment to excellence and personal attention combines the personality of a small college with the resources of a much larger place. We have a shot at doing something absolutely extraordinary here. Part of these plans involves finishing the campus renaissance begun under Fr. Jim Hoff. We will rebuild Alter Hall and the McDonald Library, and build new teaching and learning facilities that will fundamentally reshape our academic environment and possibilities.
And I know that none of this will happen without a lot of hard work. As vice president for university relations in the Century Campaign era, I saw just how much work went into making the Cintas Center a reality—as well as the Gallagher Center, the academic and residential malls and so on. Now, all of those past achievements have become the “place” from which we will continue to build toward an even brighter future. And yet, there certainly is going to be a heck of a lot of hard work between now and then.
And I know I am not alone in gazing toward a bright future through a forest of tasks and to-do lists. Seems like nothing much worth doing in life comes without a challenge. That’s true here at Xavier, but it seems true more broadly as well. As I look around and see family and friends—and more than a few of you—I’m constantly reminded of the real prices we are called to pay in life to do those things that are most worthwhile. To improve the communities where we live. To build a better world for our children. To nudge this broken world of ours that much closer to the kingdom God intended it to become.
All this brings us back to the basketball season. For the hard work on all the hardwood is certainly there to be done. There is just no getting around it. But November is the time for basketball dreams—which is precisely where any great achievement begins: with dreams. Without dreams, it is hard to know how the hard work ahead adds up. But with dreams, we will build together a university fully worthy of our future students, just as you will build lives fully worthy of those who love you—and God Himself chief among them.
As we enter deeply into the holiday season, I pray that you and those you love best will be able to relax a bit from your own hard work and enjoy some of God’s own good dreams for you.