By Jonah Bronstein
Niagara Gazette — It will not be a sentimental senior day this afternoon at the Gallagher Center.
The Niagara Purple Eagles are one of the nation's 50 youngest teams and are much more concerned with the immediate task at hand in the regular season finale. A win over last-place Saint Peter's will ensure Niagara the No. 1 seed in next month's MAAC tournament, and qualify them for the NIT.
Niagara will honor senior center Devon White prior to the 3 p.m. tip-off. White, a transfer from LaSalle, has played only 21 games for the Purple Eagles and put his senior day in jeopardy when he was ejected from the Rider game for a flagrant foul. NU coach Joe Mihalich said Thursday night that White will not have to miss today's game, even though the foul "must have been a cheap shot."
The lone four-year player on the Purple Eagles' roster, center Scooter Gillette, will not be recognized today as he is sitting out the remainder of the season with a hand injury and hoping to obtain a medical hardship waiver to preserve his eligibility for next year.
A popular teammate, Gillette has become the Purple Eagles' biggest cheerleader during games and an important voice in the locker room.
"He's our energy guy," sophomore guard Juan'ya Green said. "He gives us a lot of motivation in practice and in games. If we come off for a timeout and we've got our heads down, he motivates us."
"Scooter has been a big plus for us," Mihalich said. "He hurt his hand and we realized early on it was going to be tough for him to come back. He tore some ligaments. It's a serious injury.
"What we said is, 'You can still help this team. You can still be a big part of the team.' We always say good teams have good players and great teams have great teammates. And he's been a great teammate."
Gillette appeared in five games before getting hurt, three of them as part of an exempt event. He had 19 points and 15 rebounds in 48 minutes and was particularly effective in defending 7-foot-5 Sim Bhullar in Niagara's Nov. 18 win over New Mexico State. He sat out three games before returning to play 10 minuts in the Dec. 8 loss at UB. Since then he has suited up for games, but not played.
Green said the two Philadelphia Purple Eagles will work out together this summer, and he expects a strong senior season from Gillette next year.
"He's going to be ready," Green said. "We are going to do everything we can to help him get ready and he's going to be a big help."