Diary: Mott’s Anthony Sisson reflects on championship

April 12, 2012 in Cover Story, Diary, JUCO, Video

Anthony Sisson

Anthony Sisson is a 2010 Lapeer West graduate. He was a backup guard on the 2011 Mott Community College national runners up and on Mott’s 2012 national championship team. Below, he shares what it was like to grow into a championship team. Any college or high school player in Michigan interested in doing a diary post for BallinMichigan.com can e-mail patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com.

By Anthony Sisson

After two years playing for Mott, even though my playing time was limited, I must say that I had the experience and the time of my life and I wouldn’t change this for anything. Both years I got to practice against some of the best players in the state and even the country. Playing with players like Mott has on a day to day basis you can’t help but get better. And that’s the one thing that I’m most proud of, besides winning the National Championship this season, is I feel like I got better every day.

Coming off of a National Runner-Up finish from last year’s highly skilled squad left me and the other returning three sophomores — Darryl “Boo” Marshall, Walter Davis and Robert Littlejohn — hungry for that national championship that we let get away from us. That was the goal all year, to win a championship ring of our own.

Going into this season, I didn’t know what to expect to be honest. And when we first got to play together as a team down in Southern Indiana, I never would have thought we would have finished with Mott’s best record in school history at 35-1. Our first couple regular season games were close nail biters. If we didn’t have John Taylor average 35 for the first two games we played we probably would have lost. For that next week in practice we didn’t do anything but work on defensive technique and footwork. This year’s Mott team wasn’t going to have as many highlight dunks as last year’s team, but what we made sure to have was explosive defense. When we started to play “in your face” defense and pressured the ball teams couldn’t match up to us. When we played Lansing Community College, which was our first real test of the season, we were a totally different looking team. We pressured the whole game and it wasn’t even close. we went into the half up 51-17 all because of our defensive pressure. That game was one of the signs for me that we might be able to do some damage and destroy teams with that kind of pressure. We were basically undersized the whole season but it was our quick guard play and defense that helped us maintain that No. 1 ranking all year and led us back to the National Tournament.

It took us a minute to get used to one another, but once we all started playing in pick-up games that’s how we broke the ice and learned each other’s personalities. And if you ask anybody on the team, the one person whose personality and humor that stuck and showed through everybody, even through to coach Schmidt, was Jacob Perry‘s. Most of the things that he said stuck with our team. There would be certain phrases that he would say and shortly after, we’d all start using them, sometimes even subconsciously. We had this game we would play where you try to make someone laugh, you just call him out and even if something’s funny, the person being called out has to do his best to not laugh. If you were trying to get somebody you would usually just look at the person and do something funny. This alone is what would keep us in the locker room after practice for an hour or two. I think that’s how this team built its chemistry. We all had great chemistry together. We didn’t have a couple players here and there where they had there own little clicks, no, we all got along and genuinely enjoyed being around each other. Everybody clowned around in the locker after practice and after games. Even though coach didn’t always like it, we joked around a little before games too sometimes to stay loose, but when we had to get serious and handle our business on the court that’s just what we did. That right there is one of the key reasons why we were successful.

Before we settled down in Danville for the national tournament, we made a stop in Indianapolis. Being down there with the team was another awesome time. We were treated to watching the Pacers play the Knicks in a suite at Conseco Fieldhouse. We had some time to waste before going to the game so of course we walked the streets downtown. It was St. Patrick’s Day and we ran into a few happy people that started drinking a little early, we even managed to take a picture with some of ‘em, haha. The whole time we were walking we were trying to find the mall and found out that we had been walking the wrong way for about 8-10 minutes, but we got there eventually. The mall in Indianapolis was huge to say the least. It was about the size of Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills, except it had several different levels. We had a great time in there. A few guys bought some things, but I forgot my wallet so I was at a loss haha (but i probably would have bought too much anyways so it was most likely for the best).

Once everybody finished up hanging at the mall we made our way back to the arena. On our way there we were all joking around, having a good time and we decided to swag across a walkway. So basically our group of 13 guys just randomly start dancing at the cross walk. It was just funny to see people look at as us. The people around got a laugh out of us doing it, which was really all we wanted. We all like to make people laugh and don’t have anybody on this team that is shy in public and that’s something that’s always fun to be around.

But the dancing didn’t stop there … once we got inside the arena to find our suite we walked by this band that was jammin’ out to their own version of the song My Prerogative by Bobby Brown and people were just kind of keeping their distance as they walked right by the band playing. But not us, haha! We walked slowly towards them and then we all gathered around the band and starting dancing, that whole scene lasted for about 20 seconds but the guy who was singing got real into it and hyped up and shortly after we had a crowd just watching us. Definitely one of many highlights of being in Indianapolis. The game was cool, we all had a good time hanging out in the suit and watching ‘Melo and Lin-sanity hoop. But it was time to make our way to Danville and get ready for this National Tournament. Here’s a video we shot walking around downtown before the Pacers game:

When the team arrived in Danville (for the second time for four of us), I felt blessed and at home. It’s hard enough for most teams to get there once and make a run, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this place twice and we were on a mission to show everyone down there that Mott was back and hungry for a fourth title. Though we were eager to play right when we got there we managed the time by just hanging out, usually in my room because I was the only one who brought a game. We were playing NBA 2k12 on the 360. When we all had to be in our rooms, me and my roommate Chavis Mattison played Call of Duty online. It didn’t take either of us that long to become addicted to that game, as soon as we got back back from practice one of us would always say, “aye bro you try’n to get on that Duty!?” and the the answer was always “yeah!” We even got other guys to start to play it too and one time Kortez Ross and a couple others came into our room wanting to play. Along the way somehow they started talking to each other about something and it led to them singing at each other for some reason. So needless to say we were hardly ever bored in the hotel.

During our first game against Danville, they had us on our heals by the end of the first half with a 3 point lead. It was a full house and our game was the main event. I just remember thinking there’s no way we should lose, especially this early, then we came out in the second half and sparked a run which was led by John’s back to back threes. Once we had the momentum and got our energy in us, which is what we were lacking, we got ahead and never looked back. At times when we were losing it was hard to be on the bench, kind of feels like someone’s beating up on your brothers and you can’t do anything to help except for cheering your bros on for them to keep going. All I could do was provide encouragement for my teammates and sometimes that’s all they needed to get them going.

When we made it to the Final Four game, Lakeland would prove to be a good match for us. We were once again probably undersized at every position. They went at us and the game seemed to go back and forth. Even though it felt like we had control of the game we never really did, they stayed close for most the game. We’d make a run but then they came back and made their run. It was clear that it was going to be a battle while we were on the court. But in the last minute and a half or so, we had a decent lead and maintained it through the closing seconds of the game. I just remember the awesome feeling that we were going back to the National Championship game, and the feeling hit me when Ralph Eason got the ball through Lakeland’s press and dribbled into the front court holding up his finger … Only one more win! That’s all we had on our minds. We were set to play Rhode Island Community College in the championship game.

I’m not sure about the other guys on the team, but I couldn’t really sleep that night because I was so anxious to win the next day. We made it all the way to the end last year and fell short, and I just felt that we we were gonna win this time. You ask me when I thought to myself we’re going to win the championship? I would say as soon as we won the tip. I just knew that as a team we were ready for a championship. We didn’t have guys looking on to that school they were going to play at next year, all of us had tunnel vision and it was looking right at the national title. Boo was able to shut down Rhode Island’s Desmond Williams, he was the key to their offense. Even though they too were bigger than us in the post, they weren’t ready for guys like Ralph, Walt, Boo or John. Ralph especially let me know we were going to win because it showed through his aggressiveness on the court. He must have had three fast break dunks that game just beating guys down the court, and near the end Walt capitalized it with a strong baseline jam.

I was just dying to get out there one last time, and I did. With two minutes left coach subbed me in and it meant a lot to me to be on the court for the final time in a Mott uniform. As soon as that buzzer sounded and the game was over I couldn’t even express how I was feeling. Our team is used to winning all the time, but being able to win that last game and win a championship, there’s nothing you want more in sports than to just stay in that moment. I guess it made me look back to all that this team has been through, and how we may have been doubted by some in the beginning of the year because of all the talent we lost from last year. To become the best team in country is just a thrill. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget and couldn’t have experienced it with a better group of teammates. We all became like brothers through this journey, sometimes we fought and argued, I’ve had my share in that, but at the end of the day we’re still a family and this championship is just the outcome of this team’s determination and commitment to putting hard work day in and day out.

I know when coach Schmidt goes and recruits his players one of the things he says is if you come to Mott you’ll have a chance to play for a national championship. Well, he’s a man of his word. And I’ll never forget what it felt like to cut down the net and put it around my neck … words couldn’t describe how satisfying it felt to be able to do that … one of many memories that will be with me forever that no one could ever take from me. There’s no better feeling than to leave on top and everything we did, we did together as a team. I’m definitely going to miss this group of guys no matter where we all end up. What we achieved is going to be hanging in the Mott gym to remind us what we had and the time we all spent there. — Mott Bear 4 Life