By ANDY WOLF
A total of 324 starts. Over 400 games played.
The University of Findlay men’s basketball team’s core of four seniors logged thousands of minutes in their careers while achieving plenty individually and as a team.
The respective careers of Austin Gardner, Martyce Kimbrough, Elijah Kahlig and Taren Sullivan came to an end Tuesday.
The Oilers fell in the Sweet 16 for the second straight season, this time 80-65 to top-seeded Ferris State on Tuesday.
“These four guys have meant so much to our program,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said in the press conference following the loss. “Not only because they’re very good basketball players, but more important, they’re some of the classiest people that we’ve had in our program and may ever have had.
“They’re beloved in Findlay because of who they are. Not because they’re just really good basketball players. That’s what I’m going to miss most. Win, lose or draw, they always come back. They handle it like men and that’s what’s going to serve them well in the future.
Each of the four had a very different journey.
Here’s a look back at the careers of each player.
AUSTIN GARDNER: Likley the roughest career of them all.
Gardner battled through not one, but two knee injuries before his senior season.
The first caused the point guard to miss the entire 2014-15 season. The second cut his 2016-17 campaign short after six games.
His junior season was a very small sample size.
Gardner’s on-court smarts are best measured by his incredible assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.7.
That’s 236 assists to 50 turnovers.
It’s also nearly one turnover for every two games (94), he played in and one every 37.7 minutes.
Leadership is an immeasurable asset but Gardner displayed plenty of it, too.
He even flashed more of his offensive game this season in an efficient manner.
For someone who scored only 13 points in the first nine games, Gardner still averaged 4.7 points per game on 52.7 percent shooting.
He even made a respectable 30.3 percent from 3-point range, often left wide open and dared to shoot by opposing teams.
Gardner capped his career by tallying at least five point in each of his last 10 games.
MARTYCE KIMBROUGH: Scoring 1,650 points is a feat, in itself, very hard to do.
Doing it in three years?
All the more remarkable.
Kimbrough did just that.
He’s the only member of UF’s 1,000-point club to reach the milestone with only three seasons played.
The Lima native spent his freshman season at the University of Indianapolis before transferring to Findlay the following season.
“I’m just very appreciative of everything,” Kimbrough said. “Everyone accepted me right away. Coming to a good program, I would never have anything negative to say about any of those guys in the locker room or the university as a whole.”
Kimbrough’s 3-point shooting prowess became evident from day one.
He nearly got to 1,000 points on 3-pointers alone.
His 298 treys rank second all-time behind Marc Bishop (313, 1996-99). With over 100 treys in each of the past two seasons, it’s safe to say he’d have the record had he played his freshman season.
Kimbrough and Bishop each finished their careers at 40.1 percent from downtown.
Few players were more confident in their shot than Kimbrough.
He’d pull up from anywhere, any time. From the parking lot, to early in the shot clock, to heavily contested — Kimbrough trusted his shot.
Sure, as shooters do, he battled through tough games where nothing fell.
Those tended to be few and far between.
He finished with 32 games games with at least four 3-pointers — better than one every three games.
Kimbrough does have the single-season mark (114) and single-game mark (11) done both in his junior season.
A big-shot maker throughout his entire career, his list of clutch 3-pointers is endless.
Perhaps, most importantly was his growth into a well-rounded player.
He posted career highs of 99 rebounds, 62 assists and 39 steals his senior season.
“It’s been a fun three years, a lot of good relationships,” Kimbrough said. “There’s nothing I can look back and say I wish I did this. Everybody on our roster can say they put in 110 percent effort whether its the first guy or the last guy off the bench. That’s every day in practice or even outside of practice.”
ELIJAH KAHLIG: Elijah Kahlig came to UF in the shadow of his older brother Greg.
Elijah’s freshman season directly followed Greg’s historic season of 736 points (3rd all-time), including a 55-point effort for the second-highest single-game total in school history.
While Elijah didn’t put up the amount of points Greg did (1,877-993), few did as he’s 4th all-time, he did surpass him in career 3-pointers (217-214).
“I really can’t put into words these last four years,” Kahlig said. “It’s been a privilege to play for such an outstanding program and to have the teammates I’ve had. I truly can call them family and brothers.
“Especially the coaches, I don’t think you can ask for a better coaching staff than the ones we have. They’re truly unbelievable people who want you to succeed on the basketball court, but want to succeed off the court even more.”
Kahlig played a pivotal role all four of his seasons.
He started 23 of 27 games as a freshman, already with the reputation of being a dangerous outside shooter.
His name is etched again in the UF record books after going 6 of 6 from 3-point range — the most without a miss — in his junior year against Carlow.
“I just hope the younger kids, freshman, sophomores, juniors, can just learn from the success that we’ve had and build on it,” Kahlig said. “Coach was saying in the locker room how he thought this class really did an unbelievable job of teaching the younger guys of how to play Findlay basketball and be role models off the court.”
TAREN SULLIVAN: Sullivan, like Kimbrough, was a two-time all-Midwest region player for a reason.
Both were often unguardable at times, in different ways.
Ernst regularly noted the growth of Sullivan’s inside game over the span of his career.
By the time he was a senior, the 6-foot-6 forward was unstoppable on the post when locked in.
He closed many games that way.
Sullivan’s per-game numbers as a senior weren’t quite what he did his junior year.
But he didn’t need to be as good, statistically.
The Oilers were far deeper this season than the previous year.
So deeper that Sullivan didn’t need to lead UF in rebounds, assists and steals like he did his junior season.
“I have nothing, not even close to anything bad to say about the program, bout the guys the coaches have surrounded me with as teammates and brothers,” Sullivan said.
“Looking back, we put everything forward. We put all feet in. We put effort in day in and day out, even when coach told us we didn’t even have to.”
It’s hard to say what Sullivan did best: score, rebound, lead the fast break, create for others or defend the post.
Perhaps all of the above.
Any Sullivan dunk via the fast break or alley oop was a must-see.
His 1,595 career points place him 12th on UF’s career scoring list. He’s only 11 assists shy of fifth all-time.
“I just appreciate everyone putting their best foot forward and surrounding me with great energy, building me up, positive fives, enjoying the whole career, the whole run,” Sullivan said.