NEW BRITAIN - After the CCSU menâ€™s basketball teamâ€™s comeback effort fell short against Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday, the attention quickly shifted to the three Blue Devils who would soon make their final exit from their home floor.
Once the Knights had turned a tie game into a 14-point lead with one minute remaining, CCSU head coach Donyell Marshall signaled to the bench, and the cheers began.
The crowd stood as Deion Bute, Kashaun Hicks and Tyson Batiste all headed to the bench to receive hugs from their coaches and teammates, ending their run as Blue Devils.
â€śIt was tough coming off and seeing the coaching staff for the last time,â€ť Batiste said after contributing 10 points in his final game at CCSU, as he will be an early graduate in the spring. â€śWeâ€™ve built a great relationship. Iâ€™m going to miss the team and the younger guys, because I only got to play with them for a year.â€ť
Batiste played three full seasons with the Blue Devils, while Deion Bute played two after coming over from Tallahassee Community College. The 6-foot-9 center may not have played a full four seasons in New Britain, but logged enough minutes to fill up a normal college career after starting all but one game for Marshall since arriving in 2017.
Bute scored nine points in his final game and ends his season as the most efficient scorer in the NEC, shooting over 60 percent from the field.
â€śItâ€™s been a good two years,â€ť Bute said. â€śThere are some really good guys here. I loved playing with the younger guys. The future is bright for them.â€ť
Hicks was once one of the younger guys on CCSU, and was Marshallâ€™s first recruit when he arrived as head coach of the Blue Devils.
As he walked off the court to a standing ovation on Saturday, he couldnâ€™t help but reflect on his journey that began as one of the first pillars of the Marshall era.
â€śI still remember coming here as a freshman,â€ť Hicks said. â€śI felt like we all came together at that moment. Thatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about.â€ť
For Marshall, the memories of his departing class are happy ones, especially considering that they all were a part of last yearâ€™s team that reached the NEC quarterfinals, which the team hadnâ€™t done since 2014.
â€śThings like this do come to an end, and you try to cherish the moments you had,â€ť Marshall said. â€śWe had some good and bad times. We were able to make the NEC Tournament during their time. You can look back at some guys that didnâ€™t get to make it. They were able to at least make the tournament.â€ť
The Blue Devils had similar goals this season, but ended the year losing five straight games to doom their chances of returning to the conference tournament. Still, offered a moment of reflection, Marshall knew he got all he could from his team, especially the trio that played for him for the last time on Saturday afternoon.
â€śWe didnâ€™t get to where we wanted to be, and we underachieved this year, but those guys played hard,â€ť Marshall said. â€śThe big thing is they believe in our program and where weâ€™re going. Talking to them, they know where weâ€™re headed. To have their love and support is great.â€ť