Harler Coming To Grips With All That’s Transpired
The Mountaineer men’s basketball team was on a bus Thursday evening, winding its way through the streets of Kansas City en route to the local airport to catch a charter flight back to West Virginia.
WVU’s contingent was still trying to come to grips with the stunning news that the Big 12 Championship, like all conference tournaments, had been cancelled earlier that day because of the threat of the COVID-19 virus. Subsequently, the NCAA Tournament was also set aside. Most every other sporting event, both professional and amateur, had been put on hold, as well, so as to limit large gatherings in an attempt to slow the virus’s spread.
In the grand scheme of things, athletics pale in comparison to the peril that faces the world. Still, you can both understand the need for such cancellations and also feel empathy for those who worked so hard for an opportunity to compete, as well as the millions who enjoy watching those competitions.
That’s especially true for the seniors who have had their last go-round yanked away from them. WVU’s men’s basketball team featured three seniors – Chase Harler, Jermaine Haley and Logan Routt – while its women’s squad had two – Tynice Martin and Lucky Rudd. All saw their college careers come to an end in a fashion few could have envisioned even a few days before.
Besides covering WVU athletics for the Blue & Gold News, I also serve as a co-host for the MetroNews Statewide Sportsline, and during Thursday night’s show, we called MSN play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi, who normally is the Sportsline host, to get his insights into the historic events. Caridi was on the team bus starting the journey back to West Virginia, and after a few comments of his own, he handed his phone over to Harler.
“It’s been a crazy ride today,” admitted the senior guard from Moundsville, West Virginia. “After seeing what the NBA did last night (in suspending all play in that league), I had a bad feeling about what was going to happen. Then today you saw the ACC and SEC and other Power 5 conferences eliminate their tournaments. After I saw that, I had a feeling Big 12 tournament was going to shut down as well. Then I heard the news that Duke and Kansas may not even participate in the (NCAA) Tournament if there was a tournament, so I got a bad feeling about that as well. Eventually we got word that the NCAA was going to cancel its tournament, and I think I’m still in shock about that.
“When I heard the news, I was with one of my senior teammates, Logan Routt, and we just looked at each other and couldn’t believe what just happened,” he added. “We are all in disbelief about the situation. With the way we were playing at the end of the season, with two big wins, we had some momentum going, and we thought could do something special in these tournaments. We wanted the season to end on its own terms rather than the NCAA making a decision for us.”
Harler and his Mountaineer teammates had been following the events in the sporting world the previous 24 hours, so they weren’t completely surprised by the abrupt end to their own season.
“Last night we were watching the NBA game on ESPN,” explained Harler, who played in 116 games and scored 406 points in his WVU career. “Me, Logan Routt and Sean McNeil were watching the game in my room when they announced they were stopping their season, and we started talking about what would happen for us. We had a feeling the Big 12 tournament might get cancelled, and we wondered what would happen with the NCAAs. We figured they wouldn’t want to put people at risk.”
It wasn’t even a week ago that Harler had one of the greatest days in his life. He proposed to his long-time girlfriend, Lindsey Baker, at midcourt prior to WVU’s home finale and then went back onto the hardwood a few minutes later to help the Mountaineers knock off No. 4 Baylor.
So much has transpired since then, though even the disappointing end can’t erase their fond memories.
“Logan and Jermaine, the other senior, and I got together after we heard the news,” Harler noted. “We talked and one thing we all said was how much we enjoyed our time (at WVU).
“We found it weird that we didn’t have a say when our careers ended; the NCAA made that decision for us.”