Imagine you're not happy at your job. Maybe you want to get in on the best projects, but every time they come up, your boss tells you you haven't earned it yet. Maybe you're watching your peers advance and earn plaudits, but you still feel like your career is running in sand. Maybe you know that the next 1-4 years of your career development will determine your earnings from now until retirement.
This is a huge deal for you. What do you do?
Oh, also, you're 18 and this is probably the first time you've ever been away from home.
Dontarius James and Dahmir Bishop were both recently presented with this decision. Dahmir chose to head into the transfer portal; Dontarius stuck around despite getting almost no run as a freshman. When Dontarius had his moment against St. John's, posting 6/8/2 in a career-high in minutes in Xavier's win, Twitter responded as though he had basically singlehandedly dragged the Muskies across the finish line while saving Cintas from being engulfed in flames.
Dahmir was on the receiving end of significantly less support when his news broke. A discerning ear could have listened to Coach Steele's press conference after the game and caught - in the midst of his praise of Dontarius for having patience - perhaps some subtle shade Dahmir's way.
We like to see someone work his way up from the bottom of the depth chart at Xavier. See Jason Love go from technically on the team to senior anchor. See James Farr pull down his famous 42 minutes as a freshman and transition into being half of Jalmes Farrnolds. The list goes on, and every fan hopes to see it grow.
The problem is that college basketball is a long career for a coach, a lifetime for a fan, and - at most - four years of eligibility for a player. Dontarius James doesn't know if Sunday was a springboard or a peak. Dahmir doesn't know if he's on his way to finding a better fit and establishing his bona fides or if he's going the way of Brandon Randolph or Adrion Graves.
A career in basketball is short enough, and the time a player has in college must be spent wisely if he's going to maximize his earnings. Fans want to see a guy do whatever it takes to help the team win, even if that means taking diminished opportunities to showcase his own talents. That might hang a banner, but it's not going to put food on his table when he's 35.
Dontarius earned every bit of the praise he received on Sunday; Dahmir didn't earn being cast in contrast to him. There's no doubt that what James did was tough, but I don't think Bishop took the easy way out. While one guy put his head down and battled, the other took a brave leap into the unknown. Neither of them knows yet if he made the right decision; we should spare a thought for them both.