Published February 24. 2013 4:00AM
Storrs - It was 3:42 p.m. Saturday when Rascal Flatts was heard over the public address at Gampel Pavilion, their song "My Wish" punctuating Senior Day:
"I hope you never look back, but you never forget
All the ones who love you, in the place you left
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
Oh, you find God's grace, in every mistake
And you always give more than you take."
It was Heather Buck's moment first, walking to midcourt with parents David and Mayada, with the most maternal and paternal fans in sports showering the Buck family with a love so rarely felt in sports amid all the cynical guy talk that pollutes the games we watch.
How fitting, indeed, the words of Rascal Flatts to summarize the vocation that defined Buck's college career as much as basketball:
Help somebody every chance you get.
Heather Buck will graduate from UConn with a nursing degree. She will help somebody every chance she gets. A job at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford awaits if she wants it.
To recap: Heather Buck spent five years on women's basketball Broadway, got a 4.0 in the classroom, leaves with a job waiting for her and didn't have to spend a dime.
All of which sort of makes the hovering lament over Buck's lack of playing time about the dumbest thing every uttered in the history of anything ever uttered.
She should have gone somewhere else.
She could have played more.
This just in: Heather Buck is the beacon for what amateur athletics should be about.
Because this is what she did: She worked diligently at her God-given ability and turned it into a college scholarship, at which she worked diligently to set her up for a life of happiness and self-sufficiency.
Let's repeat: She used what God gave her - height and some low post moves - and got an education for free. Then she used the free education to set herself up for life. In one of the most noble vocations.
And some of you shake your heads because she didn't play more basketball?
Heather Buck got plenty from basketball in her life. And she'll keep others alive, perhaps at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, because of it.
It was such a bittersweet occasion, a part of you proud of what Buck has accomplished and a part that comes to the startling realization that this is all going to be over very soon. But it was a little sadder for those of us who have watched Buck since high school.
She is the greatest player in the history of Stonington, a program which owns three state girls' basketball championships, two under Buck's high school coach, Paulla Solar. Buck turned Stonington games into events. They would pull out both sides of the bleachers on game nights to watch the Heather Buck Bears, who won a state title, an ECC tournament title (at NFA, which we discovered Friday night isn't so easy) and several division titles.
Solar made sure Buck touched the ball - and this is without a hint of exaggeration - every single solitary time Stonington had possession, which proves that the best coaching needn't be complicated. And Buck worked her fanny off to earn smiley faces on the official stat sheet from Tiffany MacCall, the former Tiffany Solar, Paulla's daughter and former assistant coach.
And then the party would travel to C.C. O'Brien's for a few laughs.
They were days and nights to be treasured. Nobody really ever pondered when they'd end.
And then with the simplest walk to midcourt Saturday, with Rascal Flatts in the background, it all hit. Heather Buck's basketball career is about over. She may inspire some cockeyed lament in a few dullards out there. But she'll always mean the universe to Stonington High. The kid who always did it right, never paid for school and graduated with two national championships and a job.
They'll always leave the light on for her in Storrs and Stonington.
She leaves a legacy that should be often celebrated.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.