Bigger than basketball: Ramey, Joiner share poignant moments on the hardwood

Alex Briseño

Texas guard Courtney Ramey and Tulsa guard Elijah Joiner played on courts 450 miles apart, but both headlined the college basketball weekend after reminding us not only of the power in sports but of something that echoes outside any arena. 

Joiner, Tulsa’s 6-foot-3-inch junior guard from Chicago, was raised by his mother and stepfather while his biological father wasn’t in the picture.

That all changed recently. Joiner and his father have reestablished a relationship, which eventually led to his father making the trip to see his son play at Tulsa for the very first time Saturday night.

As for Ramey, his story isn’t about reestablishing. It’s about remembering, and playing for, his mother. Ramey’s mother, Angie Marie Turner, died when he was 10.

So as Saturday unfolded, Joiner performed with his father in the stands for the first time, and Ramey, just as he’s done over the last 10 years, put on a show for his mother.

The results?

Joiner already had 19 points deep into the second half, but the game wasn’t over yet. Tulsa and No. 23 Wichita State were tied, 51-51, with only 3.3 seconds remaining. 

Joiner caught the inbound pass and stormed down the court to the right wing. With one-tenth of a second left on the clock, he threw up a contested 3-pointer before falling to the ground. It went in. 

The miraculous shot wasn’t just a career-high 22 points for Joiner, but it was for an upset victory, triggering a flood of students to storm the court in celebration.

After the crowd eventually settled down and the court started to clear, Joiner’s father congratulated him with an emotional hug.

Moments later, Joiner delivered a tear-jerking monologue after he was asked to describe what this moment meant to him. 

Tulsa Basketball on Twitter

Elijah Joiner reflects about his father being in the Reynolds Center cheering him on during tonights WIN over Wichita State. #ReignCane https://t.co/10ypf1CRdE

“I honestly never pictured this moment with my father being here for the first time. I’m just so happy that he was here for this moment,” Joiner said, barely getting the words out. “It just means a lot to me knowing that he was here and that I could do this in this special moment. I never pictured this. I never pictured him being in the crowd cheering me on and things like that this far in my life.”

“But he’s here, and I’m just so happy that he’s here,” Joiner said before collapsing into the arms of Tulsa head coach Frank Haith.

Joiner eventually regained his composure, adding, “I just thank God that he helped us build the relationship that we have now. That’s my right-hand man, and I’m just glad to see him out here excited to see his son perform.”

In our backyard, Ramey put on a poetic performance of his own. Ramey’s highlights came later than he probably preferred. He was limited to a zero-point first half, but with 3:02 left in the game, he took over. 

After hitting a late 3-pointer to cut Iowa State’s lead to two points, he got his hands on the ball again, this time with the Longhorns still down by two and just over a minute left. He looked as if he was going to use a screen from Jericho Sims at the top of the key before crossing back over to create a wide open three-pointer from the left wing. 

He hit it. It was the Longhorns’ first lead of the second half, and that was all they needed to escape with a 72-68 victory thanks to the late heroics from Ramey’s 14-point second-half performance. 

Once Ramey was finished conducting his closer, he turned to the Longhorn bench that swarmed him almost immediately after he made the shot. Before they could get to him, though, he pointed to his wrist. He later explained that the gesture was a reference to a tattoo he has on his arm for his mother. 

Longhorn Network on Twitter

HORNS WIN! @TexasMBB finishes with an 11-3 run to beat Iowa St. Texas GameDay Final will hold you over until to @TexasBaseball’s Alumni game https://t.co/HVUMvIAIto

“Everything that I do is for her, so I just wanted to point her out,” Ramey said. “I just feel like she was with me tonight.”

Joiner was later featured on ESPN as the top play on SportsCenter for both the shot and the moment he had with his father. 

Ramey didn’t end up on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. His mother wasn’t there for his shot either, but there was a moment — as brief as it was — and it belonged only to them.