DES MOINES, Iowa — With just 14 seconds left in Monday’s game against Evansville, the Drake Bulldogs’ bench erupted as if a last-second shot had been scored. Instead, they held a comfortable 13-point lead. Three shots from the foul line on Monday may have never been so meaningful. “Last game at the Knapp Center, putting a bow to my career at Drake, the ups and downs,” said Connor Gholson, a redshirt junior on the Drake University men’s basketball.
Gholson, a native of Newton, graduated from Newton High School as the school’s career leader in points scored. As a Drake Bulldog, his accomplishments won’t be measured by stats but perseverance. “It is pretty inspirational for anybody to see somebody go through that injury and still be able to find a way to get themselves back on the practice floor,” said head coach Darian DeVries.
In the 2018 season opener, Gholson suffered a broken tibia and fibula while going up to block a shot against Buena Vista. “I have a titanium rod that is the entire length of my shin and then four screws below my knee and then two more in my ankle,” Gholson said.
Playing sparingly since the injury, Gholson has remained positive. He said, “You can’t play ‘what if,’ you have to ask ‘why not? Why can’t I come back? Why can’t I be the same that I was?'”
He may not be scoring much on game day, but DeVries said Gholson is leading in a spot that may be just as important. DeVries said, “Any time you are on that scout team, you have to learn a new offense every two or three days.”
Gholson may not appear on any billboards, but he’s preparing his teammates every day in practice and on the verge of the team’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2008. “Thirty minutes before practice we are running through everything. It is a bit of a grind and you have to be committed to do it,” said Gholson. He added, “You’ve got to remember the Drake playbook the best you can and remember the other team’s playbook, so it’s a lot.”
Gholson’s play at times has made the starters work a little harder in practice than the actual game. “Connor is oftentimes the other team’s best shooter and he’s lit us up more than once,” said DeVries.
Gholson proves that everyone can make a difference. “It’s not just the guys one through five, it’s the guys one through 17 that impact how you have success during a particular year,” DeVries said.
It’s fitting that free throws may have provided the most priceless moment of the season. “It really just comes down to how much you care about your teammates and care about their success,” said Gholson.
Gholson still has three more years of athletic eligibility, but he will graduate from Drake this spring with a degree in finance. He will not play next season for Drake.