I was doing some research on Benny Parker and Shavon Shields late last night when I stumbled upon a video on YouTube with both seniors talking with the Nebraska media about their four years on campus. Obviously for any Nebrasketball fans, listening to two crucial members of the Tim Miles era Cornhuskers is quite endearing.
But as I was listening and trying to figure out exactly where I would take this "Senior Ad" piece, something they both said resonated with me.
It all started with the first question that was lobbed at the two Kansas natives, on why they ultimately stuck with their commitment despite the coaching change from Doc Sadler to Tim Miles shortly after they signed their National Letter of Intent.
The second question -- in so many words -- was how they believed they were leaving the program:
Before sitting down to write this piece, I never really knew just how important these two sub 3-star recruits (depending where you looked) were for Miles to hang on to when he got the job. As someone that just enjoyed watching the last couple of "hero-ball" games of Shields career and hated every minute that Parker was matching up against Mike Gesell, these two guys were much more to Nebraska than solid Big Ten players that were a part of an NCAA Tournament team.
It was quite eye opening as to how much they both seemed to have believed in Coach Miles plan, what he was wanting to do as a first year coach (when they decided to stay true to the program) and how quickly they took to the new set of goals he was bringing to Lincoln.
And for them to have had "signed up for nothing" according to Miles, is quite incredible:
Something else that caught my ear in both interviews was how both players and coach attributed their career's as the start of a sound "foundation" that is now in place for Miles and his coaching staff to harness.
Despite the records, stats, expectations (or lack thereof) and conference standings, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are finally standing at a point in this four year tunnel where they see can finally see the light.
And like Shields said, it's now the responsibility for the players currently on the roster and the recruits that are coming in, to build on that. But it's important to remember that had Shields and Parker decided to reopen up their recruitment, or not show up every single day to set the bar for the appropriate work ethic, Nebraska probably wouldn't even be this close to conference relevance.
One last thing from those videos: Parker slipped in a little anecdote that both he and Shields assisted in helping the coaching staff sell Nebraska to recruits that maybe weren't fully sold on the Cornhuskers upon coming to campus.
These two -- no matter how sleepy Shields looked during that entire interview -- clearly followed in the word of Miles. And they made sure to spread his messages to these visiting recruits when they were spending some personal time away from the staff. It's obvious -- just looking at the types of recruits Nebraska has pulled in during the past two seasons -- that both Parker and Shields were able to paint the full Nebrasketball picture for these kids that were maybe teetering on the fence.
Miles put them there. Those two pushed them over.
Now, if the current and incoming freshman classes (which includes two 4-star recruits and two 3-star recruits including future staples Glynn Watson, Ed Morrow Jr., Michael Jacobsen and Isaiah Roby), stick together, that foundation is only going to get better.
Whatever successes come in the next four years, they owe it to the two seniors because they weren't just players. They were player coaches. They were brand managers. They were the true believers.
I could go on and on about their statistical values. Or some of their greatest games. Or how Shields was a four year starter, one of five players in school history with 1,500 points and 600 rebounds, fifth all time on the Cornhuskers scoring list, eighth in field goals made and second in career starts. Or how Parker posted his career best statistical collegiate season as a senior, became one of the best point guard defenders in the Big Ten and finished second in career starts and ninth in steals.
But as that outsider looking in, Shields' and Parker's legacy will be more than those numbers. They will go down -- if everything goes as planned -- as one of Miles' biggest assets and aids both on and off the floor.
And as we all look forward, it might seem like the Cornhusker Basketball mansion that Miles is trying to build is nothing more than a wooden skeleton. But without Shields and Parker, Nebraska fans would probably still be looking into one deep and muddy hole.