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February 28, 2013Back in October, Alan Major was asked about the leadership roles he expected the upper classmen to take on.
He addressed the idea of leadership first:
"One of the things about leadership is actions increase the sound and the volume of your words. You cannot say anything for a week and be a phenomenal leader by someone saying 'look at him run sprints, look at him attack this drill' and so now when you speak, it adds some punch behind what you say."
After giving that take on leadership, Major jumped right on board by talking about the type of leadership J.T. Thompson would provide:
J.T. is kind of a guy that jumps into that even though he hasn't been with us. I think his form of leadership will be different from a standpoint of giving the younger guys help with what they don't know. For instance, he's tangled with Tyler Hansbrough. Well Darion Clark and Willie Clayton need to know how difficult just one possession with Tyler Hansbrough is. JT is the only guy on our team that can translate that, but that's unique and that's good. The difficulty of when you go on the road, when we're at Xavier or Dayton, in helping the young guys understand if you get hacked you have to stay calm. At Duke, Cameron Indoor Stadium, it's five against eight. He's the only guy on our team that's done that. It's those types of experiences that our young guys have no clue about and that they desperately want to know about and need to hear about. There's a difficulty of playing at a high level of college basketball. Figure that out now and as you get better and take your lumps, he'll remind them 'I was once a freshman once too.' They joke with him about how old he is but at one point J.T. Thompson was a freshman going through that. He's got some veteran experience to share with them.
Perhaps it was telling that Major never mentioned any other upper classman when it came to leadership.
In recent weeks, it has become evident that the lack of a true floor leader has hindered this team's peformance and development.
Thompson was not the flashiest player on the 49ers roster. He averaged 14.8 minutes, 4.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game this season.
However, unlike senior Chris Braswell, Thompson was a calming force on the floor for a team that plays mostly freshmen and sophomores.
Thompson never lost his cool and never directed ill will toward the officials. He knew what adversity was - both physically and mentally. He battled through two knee injuries and relished one last chance to play college basketball.
He also played a high level of basketball within the ACC. Through those ACC battles, Thompson learned how to be "battle tested."
With DeMario Mayfield's dismissal, Thompson's loss has been too much to overcome purely in terms of leadership. The team has had to rely on Braswell since he is the only upper classman that plays significant minutes.
Although he is classified as a senior, Braswell plays and acts like an immature freshman. His careless on-court and sideline demeanor has rubbed off on the younger members of the 49ers team.
He constantly whines when he doesn't draw a foul. Instead of playing through it, he chooses to complain and air his grievances to the referees instead of hustling back to get set on defense.
His awful decision making was put on full display in Halton Arena against Dayton on Wednesday night. In a game that the 49ers had to have, Braswell picked up a technical foul after making a layup to cut the Flyers lead to 10 points with 9:57 left in the game. Braswell was upset that he didn't get the and one call and decided to mock the official to show his disgust.
For a guy who whined all night about not getting calls, he finally got one for all the wrong reasons, and he hurt his team in the process.
"It was just emotion," Braswell said. "I put my fist up and said and one. He just gave me the tech. I didn't say nothing after that. So that's all it was."
He offered no apology for his actions in the post game press conference. He wasn't asked to provide one. He should have considering he gave the Flyers two free points and possession of the ball.
After that incident, Braswell didn't play another second during the game - and rightfully so.
When things start to roll down hill, the 49ers get flustered and have no ability to fight back because they choose to be more concerned about not getting calls instead of moving on to the next play. Instead of setting the tone, they allow the officials to dictate them.
Braswell's poor on-court demeanor has rubbed off on his teammates, notably Darion Clark.
In the last two games, Clark has lost his cool. After getting yanked in the second half against Temple for poor performance, Major tried to talk to Clark as he walked to the bench, Clark had none of it and walked to the end of the bench where he sat for the rest of the evening.
Wednesday night against Dayton, after putting in one of his better games of the season, he picked up an unnecessary technical foul toward the end of the game and stormed off the court and into the tunnel where he was followed by Associate Director of Operations Stephen Doughton.
The 49ers do not have a voice to guide them through adversity. It remains to be seen if Pierria Henry can turn into that leader. He hasn't stepped into that role yet and seemed lost Wednesday on what to do once things started to unravel in the second half.
A promising season has spiraled out of control with three consecutive losses by a combined 59 points. Three games remain and the 49ers probably need to win at least two of them just to qualify for the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Brooklyn.
For the 49ers to snap out of this funk they will need Henry or another player to lead the way because Braswell has shown he isn't capable of getting the job done.