The thrill of a NCAA Tournament victory and the agony of getting rejected by the rim... Canada's Melvin Ejim had all of that in a space of a few minutes on Friday.
The Brampton baller and his Iowa State Cyclones looked aptly named while they whoosed past higher-seeded Notre Dame 76-58 on Friday in their second-round game. (A Notre Dame team got exposed as slow, sluggish and overrated? That hasn't happened in forever, or since the BCS championship game.)
Ejim, the Cyclones' undersized centre, had a great all-around night for ISU with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists. In the first half, he posterized Notre Dame's 6-foot-10 Tom Knight by elevating to complete an alley-oop started by teammate Will Clyburn. Minutes later, Ejim had a chance to throw down an uncontested dunk, but someone apparently raised the rim on him at the last minute.
To all you kids out there, that's why the old-school hoops types prefer to see a soft layup on the fast break. You just never know.
The 22-year-old actually had another dunk attempt go awry when he tried for a putback dunk only to have the ball slam off the back of the rim and ricochet outward. It scarcely mattered, though, since he and Iowa State regrouped and just played through. That might tie back to the young man Ejim is off the court. Not only did he lead the Big 12 conference in rebounding this season while being only 6-foot-6 (all of the other players among the top 10 in boards are taller), but he also won the conference's inaugural men’s basketball scholar-athlete award.
"That’s the most important award in our league,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Melvin is a true definition of 'student-athlete.' He performs at a high level on the court, and he’s taking care of business in the classroom.”
He excels in the classroom despite sometimes showing up weary after early-morning returns from late-night Wednesday road games.
"Sometimes, it’s tough,” Ejim said, "but it’s something you’ve got to do. It’s a mindset — you have to want to learn as bad as you want to play well on the court. (Des Moines Register, March 12)
So one dunk fail isn't his one defining moment, but it was still hilarious.
Ejim and 10th-seeded Iowa State face No. 2 seed Ohio State on Sunday at 12:15 p.m. ET in West Regional third-round action. The game's in Dayton, Ohio, so on top of being a perceived underdog, ISU will also have to contend with the Buckeyes having a home-court advantage.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.