Chuck Landon: Baines gets last chance to beat WVU
When it's all said and done, that is what defines the careers of every athlete.
Their place in the record books.
Their success, team-wise and individually.
Those are the milestones an athlete will remember. ... and be remembered by.
Just ask Tirrell Baines.
With every passing day of the Marshall power forward's senior season, Baines is growing increasingly aware of just how important milestones are.
First, there was scoring the 1,000th point of his career on Jan. 10. That has happened only 46 times in 105 years of Marshall basketball.
Now, another coveted milestone looms ahead for Baines on Wednesday night. He never has been on the winning team in the annual Capital Classic, which matches Marshall against in-state rival West Virginia University.
"My freshman year here they beat us by three points on a buzzer-beater," said Baines, reciting his personal history of the series off the top of his head. "My sophomore year they beat us pretty good. And last year, I didn't play (he was injured) but they beat us in the last minute."
Baines is 0-for-WVU.
But he will have a chance to change that at 8 p.m., Wednesday, when Marshall takes on the Mountaineers in the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum.
"It would be good to leave knowing we beat West Virginia," said Baines, who is averaging 12.9 points and a team-leading 7.4 rebounds. "But we can't just show up and just play and expect to win.
"This is a game that is important to us, so we need to get to work on it. Hopefully, Wednesday it will be a good one."
For Baines' sake, it had better be a good one because it's his last chance. That's why an athlete's perspective changes during his senior season.
And, yes, that's why milestones suddenly become important.
When an athlete reaches this point in his career, the diminishing opportunities create a heightened sense of urgency.
There simply is no wait 'til next year option.
"Yeah, you've got to look at it like that," said Baines. "If you are a senior, every game is your last game. So, you've got to play hard."
That's why a senior year becomes more about personal goals than any other season. An athlete wants to etch his name in the record books, wants to go out with a winning season and wants to beat a big rival like WVU before his career ends.
So far, so good.
Baines has succeeded with Part I.
"It's a great accomplishment," he said of reaching 1,000 points. "It's something that hasn't been done a bunch of times here. But other than that. ... I'm happy. I know my mom (Patricia Speaks) is proud of me. But I know I'll be even happier with a win or a winning season or a conference championship."
Baines feels that way because he's a team-oriented player rather than an indiviudualist. That's why personal honors don't mean as much to him.
"Yeah, I'm happy and I'm proud of what I did because it's a hard accomplishment here," he said. "How many players have done it? I'm only the 46th? That's big-time. I'm happy about that.
"But it's over now. It's in the past."
The present is playing WVU.
And the future is another potential milestone.
"That would be good for my senior year -- score 1,000 points and beat West Virginia," mused Baines with a smile. "That's a plus. It would be good."
Milestones always are.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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