Friday, March 19, 2010

Living the Dream

Former Santa Cruz High star Austin Swift is bringing his college career to a close in a dreamlike fashion. Not only was he named conference player of the year, but he also made some key baskets down the stretch to help his squad, Cal Poly Pomona, advance to the Div. II Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass.

In the regional semifinals he had a lay-up with .6 seconds left to send the game to overtime, before they eventually pulled off the victory 76-75. He finished with a game high 22 points.

This was just a precursor to his late game heroics as he scored on a reverse lay-up, followed by a three in the last minute and a half of the West Regional finals versus BYU Hawaii. The Broncos would eventually go on to win 78-75. He finished with 19 points and was named the Region's Most Outstanding Player. Quite impressive for a Santa Cruz native. (Quite impressive for anyone on Earth!)

But what's more impressive is the route he's taken to reach such heights. As a senior in High School he was a critical piece of the State Championship team that only lost one game the entire season. This garnered attention from numerous mid-major Div. I programs.

After weighing his options, he settled on the University of Montana. After playing sparingly in his 1st two seasons he took a leap of faith. It's a move that many D-I athletes contemplate but rarely follow through on. I can recall from my playing days, numerous players talking about it, but none of us doing it. However, in Austin's case, he chose to transfer to Caly Poly Pomona which receives not nearly the notoriety of any D-I programs, but as you can see plays at a very high level.

This decision is admirable on so many levels. Although I can only speculate as to what his motives were, it takes a great deal of strength to self evaluate honestly and then shape your future accordingly. Not to say he lacked the talent to play at the Div. I level but rather he found surroundings that resonated with him. And look at the results.

This is not only a testament to him, but his family as well. Their support for him is unwavering which certainly factors in when facing such a life changing crossroad.

Ultimately, Austin's story is such a 'success' story because of what it isn't. It isn't Sportscenter's lead, it isn't on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And these are all the ingredients high school athletes yearn for. Yet lost in these aspirations is the true goal: Becoming the best athlete you can, and truly maximizing your talent. So many kids get so wrapped up in going D-I (myself included) that they overlook many promising opportunities at other levels. That being said, it's truly heart-warming to see a young man step up, make a tough decision and then rise to great heights at journey's end.

But his journey is far from over. Good luck in Springfield Austin, and in whatever life brings you next.


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