LOS ANGELES — Ramon Galloway had a couple of things he wanted to say when it was over, when La Salle’s rush and rumble through the NCAA tournament came to an abrupt ending against Wichita State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.
He controlled the floor for two seasons with the Explorers, so it seemed fitting that he take the floor one last time, and that’s what he did in the quiet locker room after the game.
“I told them I love them,” Galloway said. “Not just the players, but the coaches, the managers, the trainers. Everybody played a part. I thanked them for every moment, every second. I’ve been on teams before where there were sub-groups on the team. Here, it’s a team. We care for each other and love each other, and everyone smiles. You can’t take life so seriously. You only get one chance, and I’m glad I got this chance.”
It was the first La Salle team to have that chance — playing in the NCAA tournament — in more than 20 years. It was the first team to advance as far in more than 50 years. Chances like that don’t always come around, but for this group, anchored by the scoring, defense, and leadership of Galloway, the opportunity presented itself, and the players grabbed it and ran for nearly two weeks.
And then it was done, and Galloway had said what he had to say, and the guys had stopped hugging and had dried a few tears, and life went on. Galloway still stood there, the blue uniform dark from the exertion of the game.
“I might keep this uniform on for three days,” he said. “It’s a bittersweet feeling. To close the door is hard, because I want to get back out there and play again. I want this opportunity again. It’s a weird feeling. I got in here and shed a couple of tears, but I had to wipe my face because we got here. I’m glad we made this great run and stuck together. We had tough times, but we were a family.”
Galloway, who was granted a transfer from South Carolina after his sophomore year to come home to Philadelphia and help care for his family, leaves as one of eight Explorers to score 1,000 points in their first two seasons.
But Galloway’s value to the team went beyond the numbers. He was a cohesive force, the best player who was also the best guy.
“Not having that voice around will be strange,” junior Sam Mills said. “He’s always a loudmouth. You can hear him a mile away. Not having that presence is going to be missed.”
In La Salle’s three tournament wins, Galloway averaged 21 points and shot over 50 percent from the field, while averaging 38 minutes of playing time. Against Wichita State, he missed his first six shots from the field and finished 4 for 15.
“I had three good games, and in this one I missed shots,” Galloway said. “Point blank. Period. Nobody’s perfect.”
Maybe not, but Galloway was good enough and consistent enough for two seasons to help lead La Salle to a pair of 20-plus win seasons and back into the NCAA tournament.
“He was the final piece. He made all this possible,” coach John Giannini said. “And in the locker room, he told the team that this isn’t over.”