Lee Men Hoops Remember Season Of Firsts
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
The 2019-20 season for the men's basketball team came to a shocking end on March 14 with the club in Lakeland, Florida waiting for a date with rival Alabama Huntsville in their first ever appearance in the NCAA D2 South Regional Tournament. The event was being hosted by Florida Southern.
"Once things started unfolding and the NBA made their decision, the NCAA quickly followed suit. We went from limited attendance earlier in the day to all championships cancelled within a few hours. Things were moving so quickly that day, and we were a long way from home," explained Lee men's Coach Bubba Smith.
"A lot of the information we were getting was the same as everyone else, mostly from twitter and social media. We didn't want our guys to find out that way and fortunately we were together. Once I got the final word, we shared it with our team and it was just a surreal feeling. Things just came to halt and your season was over. I think for the seniors, Ryan Montgomery and Parker Suedekum, it was hard because it didn't seem like there was closure. It took some time to process, and there was still a lot we didn't know at the time."
Smith added: "It was certainly a moment of shock, especially not knowing at the time what we know now. As we were making our way back to Cleveland the next day, more information was coming available, and it was apparent that we were experiencing something unprecedented. We realized the NCAA made the right call and it was in the best interest for all our student-athletes."
Remembering a season of firsts: "I think as we reflect on our season, especially for our seniors and what they have done for our program, it will be remembered as a season of firsts. We have been building something special, and these seniors have left a legacy they can be proud of. We were ranked No.7 by the GSC coaches. Our seniors didn't feel respected and were extremely motivated. We finished the regular season as the first men's team with 20-plus wins in the Division II era. We broke into the top 25 (National Ranking) for the first time and wrapped up the regular season as the No. 2 seed in the GSC. Our club won our first GSC tournament game, and led the GSC again in defensive field goal percentage. We capped it off by receiving the program's first NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
These things are what these seniors will always remember. I don't think our team and seniors were surprised by our season. We knew we had a special group of unselfish guys that were talented and would compete each night. It was a heck of year and I couldn't be more proud of our guys," recalled Coach Smith as he looked back.
Ryan Montgomery averaged 18 points and six rebounds per game. He was Lee's initial player to be named First Team All-GSC and All-Region. "The way our season ended was unexpected. I don't think anyone saw their senior season ending like this. I'm happy about all the success we had this season. I love our guys, the team and the campus. Lee will forever hold a special place in my heart," said the player who will go down with the best-ever Flames.
Parker Suedekum allowed, "As I saw the NBA and other sports shutting down, I knew what was about to happen. I feel like during the last game I played, I left everything out on the court. So I didn't have any regrets. But when we made the tournament I was really looking forward to another chance. It was a dream I had since I was a kid, so I was heartbroken when it came to a sudden end. I never thought my last basketball experience would end during a practice session."
Suedekum was the team playmaker and was often called the heart and soul of the Lee squad by Coach Smith. He averaged 10 points per game, dished off a team-leading 114 assists and averaged over 32 minutes of playing time per contest.
Parker's home is in Brentwood, Tennessee, but either his mother, Teresa, or father, Ron, attended every game, home or away. Parker's brother, Garrett, is a member of the Belmont University team. One parent would travel to watch the Flames and the other would attend Belmont's game. They were no doubt crushed when the seasons came to an early end for their sons.