For the next entry in my list of memories from the decade of the 2000’s, let’s look at some of the most unexpected individual performances from Panther players.
I’m coming at this idea from a few fronts. First, perhaps the most memorable of all came at the U.S. Cellular Arena in a game against Green Bay, whom that Panthers just beat yesterday. It’s actually a game that may make a couple of other lists, as well. Also, our man Jason Averkamp makes this list, and his performance last Tuesday night at SIU Edwardsville got me to thinking about the first time he posted big numbers as a Panther.
So, the two “rules” for making this list are pretty simple. First, the performance had to happen in a big game. Not necessarily a win by the Panthers, but at least the performance had to make you wonder how you’d have ever been in the game without that particular player. (Kevin Schifferer reaching double figures against Mount Senario does not count.) Second, the performance had to be way beyond what that individual would have ever been expected to do in their season or career based on either expectations or their career numbers.
I came up with seven … I thought about going all the way to 10 but I really wanted to keep it to performances that truly, truly stood out and made a difference. Here we go, in order from seven to one.
#7 – Tyrone Young at Montana in December of 2005
Young scored just 10 points in the game, so that’s what puts this performance seventh. But in some ways you could make an argument for putting this one at the top, if you look strictly at how unexpected it was. Young scored just 39 points in the rest of the games that season and transferred to a Division II school after the year was complete. But, he played a big role in one of the best games of the season for the Panthers – a road win at a sold-out arena against a team that, as I recall, also wound up making the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
#6 – Nate Mielke vs. Loyola in December of 2002
Nate Mielke had a solid three-year career for the Panthers, but was never a go-to person on offense. In fact, he had just seven double-figure scoring performances in his career. Yet, in mid-December of 2002 against Loyola at the Klotsche Center, Mielke teamed up with Dylan Page for a dominating offensive performance. He tallied 22 points and seven rebounds in a 100-80 win over the Ramblers. Dylan actually had 32 in the game, giving Milwaukee a stunning total of interior points. The game is also memorable for the way UWM won the game twice, building a big first-half lead, losing it, then running out again for a 20-point win.
#5 – Mike Sowder at San Diego in January of 2001
Sowder was the true definition of a role player for the Panthers, and he played that role to perfection in an exciting win over a solid San Diego team in January of 2001. The victory gave UWM a season sweep of the Toreros, as the Panthers had beaten them in Milwaukee two days before Christmas. It also made for a very pleasant trip to California in the last time Milwaukee has visited the state. And, it helped Milwaukee overcome another shining example of home cooking from the men in stripes, as this was also the game where the late Doug Beard earned UWM’s bench a technical foul with some comments from the crowd that the officials swore came from Bo Ryan. Sowder scored 12 points in the victory – including a big three that helped UWM pull out the win late. He would score just 46 total points in the other games that season.
#4 – Deion James at Valparaiso in January of 2008
James’ play at the ARC checks in at fourth, mainly because he actually had a number of solid efforts that season, making his 20-point night against the Crusaders not totally unexpected. But, remember the variety of circumstances in that game. The Panthers had still only recently lost a host of players from their roster, and were actually riding a five-game winning streak coming in to the game. Then, Paige Paulsen fouled out with over six minutes to play on a pair of really, REALLY shaky calls (I’m tellin’ you, that worst call ever list would be great!), and Milwaukee was down seven points. But, Deion responded and played a huge role in helping win the game for the Panthers.
#3 – Marcus Skinner vs. Butler in February of 2008
Skinner played a larger and larger role as the 2007-08 season progressed, but certainly at the start of the campaign you would have never predicted the kind of game he posted against nationally-ranked Butler. He scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as UWM nearly pulled off the upset. In fact, a three-point play by Skinner with three minutes left had the Panthers up six. But, Milwaukee would fall short in overtime. Skinner did have 17 more rebounds in the next game against Green Bay and was clearly one of UWM’s best during the final two-thirds of that season. Still, he makes this list since he didn’t even play in two of the first three games of that season and had just 13 points in the first eight games of the year – and this was already his second and final season in Milwaukee.
#2 – Jason Averkamp vs. Valparaiso in February of 2008
Maybe now that we have seen some other big shots and great outings from Averkamp, we wouldn’t be that surprised by his play against Valpo in February of 2008. But, remember where things stood when that game started. Realistically, Averkamp would have only played a few minutes in that game if it wasn’t for injuries to Marcus Skinner AND Paige Paulsen early in the first half. He wound up helping the Panthers dig out of a huge hole and nearly pull out an improbable victory. Averkamp scored 21 points in the game after scoring just 25 total points in the season leading up to that game. He wound up having a very nice week as Skinner remained sidelined, and has remained a valuable part of UWM’s roster ever since.
#1 - Kalombo Kadima vs. Green Bay in January of 2004
Kalombo Kadima was another valuable player throughout his career as a Panther, and he even redshirted during the 2002-03 season to make himself available for a more prominent role in 2003-04. That game plan, hatched by Kadima and the coaching staff, worked like a charm, as he started 15 games as a fifth-year senior. But, no one will forget the game he put together against in-state rival Green Bay. With Dylan Page, Joah Tucker and Ed McCants all struggling from the field, Kadima poured in 22 points that extended UWM’s league record to 10-0 in front of more than 8,700 fans at The Cell. Kadima didn’t have more than 10 points in a game at any point during that season – except on this magical night.