Seconds winding down, an undetected Tim Diederichs snuck past the St. Mary’s Gaels’ defense and received a laser pass from teammate Anthony Ireland. Elevating off of two feet, Diederichs jumped and converted a layup off the backboard before the first-half buzzer sounded.
Fittingly, the Lions’ fifth-year senior capped off the best half of basketball this LMU basketball team has played in its surprising 2011-12 campaign. Twenty minutes later, LMU completed the upset win over No. 16-ranked St. Mary’s and appeared on the national radar, at least for that one Wednesday, Feb. 15.
After five years, three coaches, two single-digit-win seasons and one season-ending injury as an LMU basketball player, Diederichs concludes his college basketball career. The Seattle native led LMU to the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) this season. LMU’s appearance in the CIT is only its second postseason tournament appearance in the past twenty years.
“There have been so many lows. The one memory I have is of my teammates and how we’ve persevered through really tough times,” Diederichs said. “We’ve broken through.”
Heading into his senior year of high school, in the summer of 2006, Diederichs’ play at a Double Pump Basketball Camp in
California caught the eye of Brian Priebe, an LMU assistant coach at the time. Soon after, then-Head Coach Rodney Tention offered Diederichs a full-ride scholarship. LMU was Diederichs’ first offer – and to him, a dream had come true, especially since uncertainty surrounded his chances of receiving a Division I scholarship offer going into his senior year.
For years growing up, Diederichs played in the shadow of his brother Rob, who played basketball at Seattle Pacific University, a Division II college. Rob never received a scholarship offer from a Division I school.
“He was better than me. He was the real deal,” Diedrichs said. “I got [there] for us.”
Immediately, Diederichs made the most of his opportunity and had an impact at LMU. In the 2007-08 season, he started all 31 games as a freshman – a feat never accomplished before in LMU basketball history.
After Diederichs’ freshman season, Tention was fired as a result of the team compiling a 5-26 record.
“I was heartbroken and absolutely destroyed when he was fired. He was the only reason I was here,” Diederichs said.
In Diederichs’ sophomore year, Bill Bayno was hired to replace Tention. However, current LMU Head Coach Max Good replaced Bayno after an abrupt midseason resignation. During this whirlwind of change, Diederichs sat out the entire season after three games due to season ending shoulder surgery on a torn labrum. Diederichs’ situation did not get any better as LMU slugged through a 3-28 season.
In his return to the court in the 2009-10 season, LMU improved and put together an 18-16 record. Optimism surrounded the team, until their season imploded during conference play, finishing with a mere two West Coast Conference (WCC) league wins and an 11-21 overall record.
Fast forward to the present, and the Lions just ended their most successful season since the legendary 1989-90 season. Unfortunately for Diederichs, he has only appeared in 13 games this season. After nine games, doctors diagnosed Diederichs with plantar fasciitis, a condition causing severe pain and stiffness in his right foot.
The emergence of LMU’s younger post players Anthony Osborne and Godwin Okonji, combined with the season-long foot injury, led Diederichs to serving a reduced role on the court.
“I’ve definitely been frustrated at times with my playing time, but I’ve been a leader. This experience has been something you can’t trade in,” Diederichs said.
Despite the decreased playing time, Diederichs remained an integral part of the team through his play in practice and encouragement for his teammates during games. At times throughout the season, like in the St. Mary’s game, Diederichs provided the Lions with productive stretches of play off the bench.
However, it is Diederichs’ off-the-court traits that impressed his college coaches the most in his career at LMU. “He could be on scholarship here until he’s 50 years old. He’s that good of a teammate, person and human being,” said Good.
Good and the rest of his coaching staff also appreciated the energy and competitiveness Diederichs brings to the team’s daily practices. “He puts out an all-out effort. He takes pride in every pass, catch and lay-up. … He implores our other guys to work hard,” said Good.
Associate Head Coach Myke Scholl reiterated praise for Diederichs’ team-first attitude and influence on his younger teammates. “He’s always teaching [younger players], explaining and showing different terminologies, and showing them how to be a consummate teammate,” Scholl said.
Along with praise from his coaches, Diederichs’ teammates affirmed his importance to the team by voting him a team captain the past three seasons.
“For me, it’s about pride and sticking out what I came to do, and to get LMU to a respectable point,” Diederichs said. “We’ve done that.”
One only needs to look at the multitude of tattoos draping Diederichs’ upper body to see his passion for the game. At the age of 16, Diederichs illegally tattooed a basketball on his chest using his brother’s ID. On his lower left arm is a famous Norman Rockwell painting depicting four children dressed up in pickup basketball attire arguing with each other. Received on his 18th birthday, Diederichs says this tattoo reminds him that basketball in the end is just a game.
But that game has brought Diederichs to places he did not envision when he was a 10-year-old boy shooting hoops in the rain on the driveway of his Shoreline, Wash. home.
After finishing fourth in the WCC regular season standings, opposing teams and outside basketball experts viewed LMU as a threat to win the WCC tournament and gain an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately for Diederichs and his teammates, San Francisco eliminated the Lions in the quarterfinals and dashed the Lions’ hopes of making the NCAA tournament.
“It gives me goosebumps. If you were to tell me when I was 10 years old that I was going to be on a team that’d have a chance to make the tournament – I’d take that chance. Nothing is guaranteed in life,” Diederichs said.
Like most Division I college athletes, the future is uncertain for Diederichs. He wishes to continue possibly playing overseas and eventually getting involved with coaching or sports media. For now, he says he will miss the camaraderie of his teammates and the rush of playing.
“There’s nothing that can replace the feeling of competing and being out there with five guys trying to get stops and scores – it’s a beautiful thing,” Diederichs said. “I’ve been grateful to play hoops in college. Period.”