After long journey, sophomore forward leads Bulls in MAC Tournament
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 23:03
CLEVELAND – Will Regan did not show emotion until the final minute. By that point, the man whose last name has earned him the moniker “The Politician” could not contain his smile.
With 1:05 left in the Bulls’ 76-61 win over Ball State, Regan attacked the basket and got called for a charge. He flipped up a ridiculous-looking backward shot just for kicks. It went in. With 31 one seconds left, Regan took a free throw that hit every part of the rim and spun around for what felt like a minute. That, too, fell in.
It was just that kind of night.
As the final minutes ticked down, Regan’s shots looked exponentially ridiculous, and yet, somehow, it seemed every one went in. As hard as he fought, his grin became exponentially visible.
And who could fault him? Regan had just scored 36 points in the game that could have ended his team’s disappointing season. The Bulls had just advanced in the Mid-American Conference Tournament with a 15-point upset win after trailing by six at halftime. He was the Buffalo high school superstar who had wanted to go to ACC country and had not done well with the experiment.
When he transferred from Virginia to UB in the summer of 2011, he talked about how he couldn’t wait to see “Buffalo” on his chest. On Wednesday night, in the spring of 2013, he made his hometown proud.
It has not been a seamless transition. Before the season, head coach Reggie Witherspoon cautioned that fans should not get too ahead of themselves. He said getting Regan to play at the same level again – after sitting out for a year due to transfer rules – was like teaching a child to walk. But on Wednesday, Regan looked like the athlete Witherspoon had always envisioned.
Witherspoon started recruiting Regan when he was in the seventh grade. The coach has been friends with Regan’s father, Lawrence, since before Regan was born. Regan went to UB basketball games and camps all the time as he was growing up.
Regan played a year at Virginia, receiving minimal playing time, before he decided to come home.
“In that kind of situation, you just want what’s best for the kid,” Witherspoon said. “When he went away to Virginia, we were hoping he would have a great career there. He got a little homesick, and when he decided to come home, we were hoping he would do great at UB. Certainly, we thought it would be a great fit. We thought it was a pretty good fit in that last year he got to practice with us every day.”
Regan battled in practice with junior Javon McCrea (who made first-team All-MAC this week and scored 18 against Ball State) and graduated seniors Titus Robinson (who is now playing professionally in Australia) and Mitchell Watt (the 2011-12 MAC Player of the Year who is now playing in Israel). All that training prepared Regan for performances like the one he put together Wednesday night.
“It’s just a lot of hard work in the offseason,” he said. “Game by game, the more experience I get, the more comfortable I feel, and I think I’ve been feeling more comfortable with my teammates and the flow.”
Senior guard Tony Watson, who finished with just five points but dished out eight assists and kept his younger teammates poised by controlling the pace, is one of Regan’s closest friends. So, has he ever seen Regan get that hot? Of course, he said.
“As long as Will stays confident, keeps shooting shots when he’s open, takes good shots, he’s a phenomenal shooter,” Watson said.
That’s the word that has been said about Regan all season: confidence. It’s what Watson, Regan and Witherspoon all touched on in the post-game press conference. When Regan believes in his shot, he’s deadly.
“It’s always the issue of the confidence repair in [transfer] situations like that,” Witherspoon said. “It does take time. That and just his rhythm and timing. He’s working his way through that.”
The Bulls have not won a conference championship – they’re far from it. On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., they’ll play in the quarterfinals against a Kent State team that has had their number this year. There is a long way to go, and Regan, too, has more of a trek ahead of him. Nevertheless, Regan’s dominance helped the Bulls win their first game in Cleveland in four years.
“I never felt like I wasn’t capable of doing things, but at times it was frustrating because I wasn’t performing to my expectations,” Regan said. “I always knew it was there, and this is just one game. It’s not like I’ve turned the corner. I’ve got to keep being determined and playing hard.”
If this isn’t it for Regan, Bulls fans should be excited to see what’s around that corner. It might mean a better season than 14-19. And maybe, just maybe, it will mean more smiles.