A long post about a long few days.

Thirteen months into my Audi lease I was in great shape, milage-wise, about 1000 miles lower than where I should be. I pretty much wiped out that deficit over the past few days.

Thursday M and I drove to Cincinnati to take her first college campus visits. We toured the University of Cincinnati and Xavier.

UC is a popular spot for Indy-area students as it offers nearly in-state tuition to most Indiana grads. Xavier always looks to bring in kids from Indianapolis Catholic schools, and is known for being very generous with scholarships. Seemed like a good way to knock out a couple schools on her list in one day.

M really isn’t sure what she wants to study yet, so we didn’t meet with any academic folks. And as her first visits, she had nothing to compare them to. But she loved UC.

It is a much bigger school than I realized, well over 45,000 total students with an undergrad population around 33,000. The main campus is a very tight, two square mile property near downtown. It has some older, traditional college campus buildings, but much of the campus is either brand new or recently renovated, giving it a very modern feel. The football stadium is smack in the middle of campus. You can literally look into it as you’re walking to class.

I think she liked that combination of opportunities that come with having such a large student body without the large physical size of the typical Big Ten campus. She has some friends with siblings at both UC and Xavier, so has heard the area around the UC campus has lots of cool restaurants and shops. It can also get sketchy pretty quick. I thought it was interesting how our tour guide played up the fact that UC has its own police force, the Cincinnati police patrols campus, and there are emergency phones all around if you do ever run into trouble. I guess that’s good info to have, but it also does as much to reinforce the narrative that it isn’t the safest campus as reassure parents that their kids will be safe.

When we were done with the official tour we walked into the Fifth Third Arena where the basketball team plays. There was a boys camp going on and, I swear to God, as we walked through the kids were all chanting, “Let’s go Kansas!” The best we could figure was the camp was divided into groups with names of different college teams, and the Kansas squad was going through drills while the other kids encouraged them. Or they knew I was in the building!

Outside the main doors is a statue of Oscar Robertson. There we found a recruit taking a picture in front it. He was a 6–5 white kid so probably not a high level recruit, but it was kind of cool to see the coaches walking him around. I got a pic with Oscar when the kid was done.

Our tour guide kept making a big deal about how UC is a football school now, which did make me chuckle to myself since that was not the case until a couple years ago. And there were signs and shirts everywhere celebrating UC’s admission to the Big 12. KU playing two hours away from my house isn’t the best reason to send my kid there, but it’s not the worst, either.

Again, this was M’s first college tour. I think she was a little too impressed with some things that were new to her. She thought the dorms were amazing, and we didn’t even see the high level ones. She thought the Bearcat Card, the debit card that works all over campus and at a few off-campus businesses, was the coolest thing ever. I didn’t tell her that I’m sure every school has their own version of that. She’ll probably think other schools are copying off UC when she hears about their payment systems.

After lunch we drove the six miles to Xavier. As I said, there’s a strong connection between Indianapolis Catholic schools and XU. We know a lot of people who went to Xavier or are there now.

While we parked in a big garage at UC and had to walk a few blocks to our meeting point, at XU we just pulled into a small lot in front of the admissions building, like parking at Walgreen’s. I think that immediately turned M off a little, as it didn’t seem very big or special.

The tour was fine, but I could tell she wasn’t into it as much as UC. Afterward when I asked her thoughts, she told me XU felt like a bigger version of Cathedral, and she didn’t want to repeat that experience for the next four years. (Xavier in in the 7000 student range.) I certainly understood that.

Everything about our visit reflected that size. We were in a group of 10 or so kids plus parents at UC. At Xavier we shared a guide with one other girl and her dad. It was a pretty quick walk around campus, and the buildings all seemed a lot older and smaller. The dorms were both far less impressive than UC’s and reminded me of the dorms I lived in at KU. I bet these were built in the 1960s like those old Daisy Hill dorms (RIP McCollum Hall).

I really liked the Jesuit educational concepts that Xavier is built upon, especially their embrace of social justice and a requirement that students do things outside the classroom to make the world a better place.[1] But M can do that at any school, with or without the Jesuits.

Where UC really pushed how they are a football school (now), Xavier plays up how they are a basketball school and the excitement about Sean Miller taking over the program. Our guide took us into the Cintas Center, where a girls camp was in session, and asked if either of the girls liked basketball and M shook her head and pointed at me, “I’m not but he is.” This day wasn’t about me so I just smiled. The guide took the bait, though.

“So what team do you follow?” she asked, I’m sure expecting me to say IU, Purdue, or Butler.

When I told her I went to KU she got excited. “I picked them to win my bracket this year!” I liked her a lot!

Xavier likes to throw money around. If M hits certain deadlines in the admissions process and goes to a local event, the day she is admitted to Xavier her tuition will be basically chopped in half through a series of scholarships.[2] I’m not sure she’s interested enough to pursue any of that seriously, though.

We bought t-shirts at both schools, as Cathedral seniors are allowed to wear college shirts all year instead of uniform shirts. Even though she’s lukewarm on Xavier, she was excited that they also gave her a shirt, so she ended the day with three she can wear to school.

It was a hot day for touring campuses, but I think it was useful. I joked that she was ready to commit to UC right away, like a football recruit overly excited about his first visit, but cautioned her to take some more visits and start learning more about the academics of all the schools she is interested in.

When we got home we nailed down four more visits for the summer. We will go to Miami (OH) and Purdue in July, IU and KU in August. She’s doing KU as a favor to me on our Kansas City trip, but claims she has an open mind about it. We are visiting Miami with one of her best friends, whose dad went there and will serve as our unofficial guide. Marquette has been on her list, but I think if she’s not serious about Xavier there’s no need to waste time on Marquette (although it is 50% bigger than XU). She’s kicked around a few other Big 10 schools, but hasn’t formally moved them onto her list or asked me to look into visits.

It’s pretty crazy to realize how fast this is happening. She just took her first visits, she’ll be sending out applications in a few months, and likely have an acceptance letter or two by Christmas.

Thursday was a long day. I got up at 5:30 in order to be at UC before our 9:00 tour. Friday morning I almost had to get up even earlier for my next trip.

L’s team played in a tournament in Knoxville, TN over the weekend. Originally we were scheduled to play at 11:00 Friday morning. As we had already booked our hotel for Friday and Saturday nights before the schedule came out, we were going to have to get up at 4:30 AM to make it down in time. Luckily the tournament took pity on us and moved things around. We left home at about 8:30 and drove back to Cincinnati, then south through Lexington to Knoxville. Along the way we dodged severe storms. We had to drive through one heavy storm and then through some exceptionally gusty winds. Friends who were 30 minutes behind us had to pull off the road for about 45 minutes because the rain they were in was so heavy.

We made it to the convention center just in time for our first ass-kicking of the weekend. The first three teams we played were all very long, athletic, and just way faster than us. We actually hung with the first opponent for about 10 minutes. Then a girl hit a 30-foot bomb and it kind of destroyed our girls. We were down 10 at halftime but lost by 34. That same girl hit three other 3’s, two of them from NBA range. You just can’t guard that when you’re also struggling to contain girls who are bigger, stronger, faster in the other four spots. L didn’t score in that game.

In game two L hit a 3 to put us up 17–14 just before halftime. The rest of the game was a 30–8 run. Unfortunately we scored the eight points. We just got out-physical-ed and hustled again, and the girls seemed to give up at a certain point. L had seven points, all in the first half. She had a sweet move where she faked a girl, blew by her, scored, and got fouled. Then she missed the free throw. And she got busted by the same move two times on the other end.

Saturday we lost our final pool game by eight. We trailed pretty much the entire contest but put a run on them late to make it interesting. L grabbed a rebound and went full-court to lay it in and cut it to four with just over 3:00 left. A possession later she faked a girl, took two dribbles, and pulled up for a wide-open 15-footer that rimmed out. We never had another chance to cut it to less than four again.

We went to lunch and worried about whether we were going to lose our afternoon bracket game, which would mean we played a late game Sunday. Our girls seemed kind of down and lacking confidence. We hoped we were just in a hellacious pool and that even though we were the #4 in a 3–4 matchup, we would get a weaker team than the ones we played.

We were definitely better than our first tournament opponent. But we seemed rattled by the pressure we faced in the first three games. This team was throwing light pressure at us and we kept getting called for traveling, throwing the ball to the wrong girl, or dribbling into traffic. Just dumb errors made because of indecision. Fortunately they couldn’t score, either. We were up five at half and then something finally clicked. We went on a 30–5 run in the second half to win easily. L had a weird line. She was 0–4 from the field but had four rebounds, four assists, and three steals with no turnovers. She was bummed she didn’t score but I pointed out her other stats and told her she still made an impact on the win.

We had a fun team dinner afterward. The girls were in high spirits and the parents were relieved.

Sunday morning it was back to the convention center for our semifinal. We were playing a team from the south side of Indy, which was kind of funny. On a court next to us two of our program’s fifth grade teams were playing each other.

We started great and had an early 7–2 lead. Then we hit a cold spell and were down six at halftime. That deficit stretched out to 10 midway through the second half. But our girls, for the first time all weekend, fought through the adversity and started clawing back into it. We hit a long 3 with about 3:00 left to tie it. With 14 seconds left we hit two free throws to tie it again. But the other team smartly spread our defense, put the ball in the hands of their best driver, and she hit a layup with four seconds left to give them the win.

We were bummed and happy. Bummed that we lost, but happy that our girls fought hard to come back. And also happy we wouldn’t have to stick around for another three hours for the championship game.

L had a decent weekend. Other than that one game, she didn’t score much. She was a combined 3–7 from the free throw line and hit just the one three. But her shot looked good. I took some pictures at various times and showed them to her after we got home. I wanted her to realize her form is good, she just needs more reps to add consistency. Her knees were barking a little but she looked quick all weekend. Most importantly, she was generally on the court when the team played its best.

Our drive home was long. There was a lot more traffic than Friday, but at least no storms. The approach to Cincinnati is a mess of construction, and it took us a good 45 minutes to go about 15 miles. There was an accident 30 minutes outside Indy that had I–74 crawling. But we made it home safely just in time for a Father’s Day dinner at home with S’s dad and stepmom.

Next week is the final tournament of the official AAU season. I think L is looking forward to some time off.

  1. The lady who did the admissions presentation called the Jesuits “Catholic hippies.”  ↩
  2. They explained the process like this: apply by October 1 and get $500, which repeats for four years. Go to a Xavier event in Indy, get $1000, which also repeats for four years. Then your acceptance letter will include a scholarship that will range between $15,000 and $26,000, also good for four years. College tuition is a weird racket.  ↩