Shereef Mitchell, an Omaha kid, dribbled out the final seconds from the Creighton Bluejays logo at midcourt.
The meeting between basketball and the floor beneath it was inaudible to the TV audience as 18,519 fans chanted “C-U!” At zero, the buzzer sounded and student section fans in blue and white spilled out onto the court.
Creighton's 77-60 win against No. 8 Seton Hall clinched a share of the Bluejays' first Big East regular season title. It ensured the cutting down of nets, a championship banner unveil and a team photo with the conference trophy.
“What more can you ask for from college basketball?” said Ian Kirwan, a Blair kid, recalling March 7 at the CHI Health Center. “That day was just crazy.”
Getting to CU
Before working four years for Senior Days like March 7, Kirwan grew up in Blair. He spent his elementary and middle school years in his hometown before attending and graduating from Elkhorn Mount Michael High School.
All the while, Kirwan learned about hoops. He picked up tips and tricks from his coaches growing up, but also came to a realization.
“I learned from an early age that I wasn't going to play college basketball,” he said March 17.
But that didn't mean Kirwan couldn't carve out a place for himself with the Creighton men's basketball team. He became a student manager as a freshman in 2016 and ran with it. The entire operation blew him away.
“It's hundredfold what you can imagine,” the accounting major said.
Early on, freshman tasks were tedious.
“Make the coaches and players' lives as easy as possible,” Kirwan said, noting that there isn't much hand-holding for the managers' benefit. “There's a huge growing up aspect to it.”
He worked on laundry duty and film breakdowns, but, more than anything, he was earning his place and was about to be rewarded.
Big East road trips
A big break arrived during Kirwan's sophomore year at CU. Marcus Foster and the Bluejays were winning and set for a road trip to Chicago to play DePaul.
“And my boss called up and said, 'We've got an extra seat,'” the Blair native said.
Kirwan's first time traveling with the team was by private jet and met his high expectations. He doubled down, staying with the team through the next offseason into his junior year. It was a lot of hard work, but “it was worth it.”
The former Mount Michael Knight became an integral part of the Bluejays as they traveled to the Caymen Islands and all across the eastern United State, New York City included for the Big East Tournament. The trip to Villanova, in particular, was surreal for the manager as was his arrival at Butler for a game inside Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the movie Hoosiers was filmed.
“Holy crap,” Kirwan remembered thinking. “This is the big time.”
In addition to traveling with the team, the Blair native helped Creighton in recruiting, escorting potential Jays around campus.
“It's a lot of running around,” Kirwan said.
But he showed players around, making sure they were the right fit, and knowing they could potentially help lead CU to big games and even bigger moments — like March 7.
Senior Day celebration
The Bluejays finished their regular season finale on a 21-6 run to beat the Seton Hall Pirates by 17 points. Marcus Zegarowski scored 23 points, Denzel Mahoney had 16 and Ty-Shon Alexander 15.
The Big East championship celebration was their's, but it was Kirwan's, too. After the court was cleared, Creighton presented its five seniors to the remaining crowd. Players Jordan Scurry and Kelvin Jones were honored, but managers Brady Happe, Matt Sherlock and Kirwan as well.
The Blair kid capped a crazy day of college basketball embracing coach Greg McDermott, who shared words with him in an arena of thousands.
Creighton played one more half of Kirwan's senior season before the Big East Tournament in New York was halted by coronavirus concerns. The manager said the situation was tough on the team, but one he won't let define the season the No. 7 Bluejays had.
“It's hard to hang your head when you've had that kind of year,” he said.
Kirwan, who's always wanted to be in business, will graduate with his degree in accounting this spring, though an actual graduation ceremony doesn't appear as likely. Next year, he'll return for his fifth year at CU in pursuit of his master's degree. The CPA exam is in his future, too.
But is basketball?
Kirwan said that's still to be seen. He'd “love” to be able to contribute in some way.