Senior walk-on Taylor Wayer described playing for the Hoosiers as a dream come true.
In his four years on the IU men’s basketball team, he has played a total of 36 minutes.
“You grow up as a kid, especially being from Indiana, it’s just the epitome of what you want to do with your basketball career is come play for IU,” Wayer said.
At 7 p.m., the Hoosiers (17-12, 7-9) will face the Nebraska Cornhuskers (17-11, 9-7) in their final home game of the season.
For seniors Wayer, Will Sheehey, Jeff Howard and Evan Gordon, it will be their final games played at Assembly Hall.
On Tuesday, the seniors each talked about their time at IU, and went into the lasting affects it has had on them.
Wayer said as a walk-on he knows his efforts get less recognition than others.
“It hits you pretty quick how hard you’re gonna have to work for very little recognition,” Wayer said. “I would go back and reassure myself that it’s all gonna be worth it in the end.”
Sheehey said, if nothing else, he wants to be remembered as a player who gave it his all on the court.
“I just want to be remembered as a guy who played hard, gave it his all every second he was on the court,” Sheehey said.
Wayer joined the team in October his freshman year. Though the season hadn’t started, practices had.
At first a stranger to his new teammates, Wayer, who at the time was in class with Sheehey, said the Stuart, Fla., native recognized and reached out to him.
IU Coach Tom Crean said Sheehey will be remembered long after he leaves Indiana.
“And with Will, when it’s all said and done, long after this is done and years and decades pass, everyone will remember Will Sheehey for being a huge part of the comeback of this program,” Crean said.
Sheehey said he had many great memories playing for IU, citing the Christian Watford time-expiring 3-pointer to beat Kentucky in 2011 and his game-winning jumper against VCU in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament to beat VCU.
Sheehey said his entire career was filled with great memories and teammates.
“Just the whole experience, though,” he said. “I played with such great guys that really rubbed off on me.”
This week, Sheehey was named Big Ten Player of the Week, in part for his efforts in IU wins against Iowa and Ohio State.
Sunday, with freshman forward Noah Vonleh out, Sheehey and his leadership stepped up, totaling 19 points, six rebounds and four steals.
Crean said Sheehey compares to past players who changed the culture of IU
basketball, and Sheehey continues to improve the culture of the team.
Howard, also a walk-on, has appeared in 21 games this season. He has played in more minutes his senior year than his first three seasons on the team combined.
Howard said it was hard for him and the other seniors to come to grips that they are already at this point in their lives.
“Every year has been kind of like a blur,” Howard said. “It’s kind of hard to imagine that we’re already at this point. It’s definitely been a real good ride.”
Crean described Howard as a “play on demand guy,” likening him to a pitcher in baseball who can appear in any circumstance and succeed.
“To see where Jeff has come from his freshman year until now has been tremendous,” Crean said. “That’s what he has done a little bit with closing games because we really trust him.”
Gordon played at Liberty and Arizona State before playing for IU this season as a graduate student.
Growing up in Indiana, Gordon has been an IU fan his entire life. He actively rooted for last year’s team to win the NCAA Tournament.
Gordon said he had always wanted to play for IU, and he got to live out his dream this season.
“To end here is exciting just because I always wanted to come play here at some point in my life,” Gordon said.
Gordon said his first and only year at IU has been special.
“It’s been an honor,” Gordon said. “It will definitely go up on my wall as one of my pictures that stands in the middle even though I spent one year here.”
Crean said he wished he had more time to coach Gordon, but believed he has a bright future ahead of him.
“He has a great future in front of him,” Crean said. “He is spending time improving and when his intensity level is high, we are a better basketball team.”
Senior night is always emotional, and last year, against Ohio State, several players cried in their speeches after the game.
Crean said he hopes the energy and emotions that arise during senior night will lead his team to a win.
“It is senior night and we have to take all of the emotion out of that and play with great energy, fierceness and toughness,” he said.