March 5, 2013
Senior Night Photo Gallery
Dalton Pool, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas -- Monday night as Texas Men's Basketball defeated Baylor, Andrew Dick and Dean Melchionni cheered on their teammates for the last time in the Frank Erwin Center as Longhorns. It was proper that the two best friends shared their senior night experience together.
Before the game, both Dick and Melchionni received a standing ovation for their hard work and commitment, while the duo and their families were presented with their framed UT jerseys at mid-court.
These two seniors came from very different places, but they shared very similar paths in their collegiate careers.
Melchionni, born in Lancaster, Pa., comes from a basketball family -- his dad and brother both played for Duke, and his uncle played at Villanova. Melchionni admitted he never would have thought he'd end up at Texas, growing up believing that the entire state of Texas was simply a barren wasteland full of tumbleweeds.
However, after his four years in Austin, Melchionni does not want to leave and is confident that coming to Texas was the best decision he ever made. During his time in Austin, he became known for his personality and charisma off the court more so than his performance on the court. His Melchionni Report, an interview-based video feature for TexasSports.com, became so popular that some even compare him to a younger, better-looking Stephen Colbert.
"My experience here has been phenomenal," said Melchionni. "I love UT and I love the city of Austin. The people here are great, and I will always consider this place my home."
Dick, who grew up in Sherman, Texas, decided to venture his way down I-35 south to Austin after a standout high school career in both basketball and golf. The decision paid off for Dick. He became one of the few players on the UT roster who could get the entire student section to stand up and chant when he entered the game. His proudest moment was when he scored five points in a home victory against Texas-Pan American during his freshman year (2009-10).
"My experience at UT has exceeded all expectations," Dick said. "I have met so many cool people, did so many cool things, and had so many different experiences--it's unparalleled."
Both arrived on the Texas campus in the summer of 2009 and neither had a scholarship to play basketball. They were at the bottom of the barrel and earned everything that came their way - including spots on the UT roster. And while both may not have received much playing time during their four years at UT, there was never a doubt in anybody's mind that they were indeed, part of the team.
What the two of them may have lacked in athleticism or skill, they more than made up for with hard work, witty humor, comedic relief and popularity. Even Kevin Durant knew who they were, and when he came back to visit the Forty Acres, he would always say hello to his favorite walk-ons.
"To quote (the popular musical artist) Drake, Andrew and I have definitely started at the bottom of the totem pole," Melchionni said. "And I think we've done pretty well for ourselves. Andrew and I are in a different position than most players. After our experience here, I feel like nothing can break us in the real world. We have much tougher shells now. Whatever we go through out there, we can say we've faced rougher."
The two of them were rewarded for their hard work and dedication before their junior seasons, when they both received athletic scholarships from head coach Rick Barnes.
"I will be forever grateful that Coach did that for us," Dick said. "He didn't have to, but it just shows the type of guy he is."
While both admit they were afraid of Barnes at first, they quickly became great friends with their coach and will always cherish the time they had with him.
"The one thing that Coach always said that will stick with me is his quote, `Mental is to physical as 4 is to 1.'" Dick said. "It's a motto that can apply to anything in life, and it really applies to Dean and me. We've used our mental toughness and abilities to survive and earn the respect of our teammates."
Following Monday's win against Baylor, Barnes had just as much praise for this pair of seniors as they had for him.
"They've meant a lot. Andrew would run through a wall for the team. He's probably the most competitive guy on the team, and he always comes to work at practice," Barnes said. "Dean has a lot of talents, and even though he's slower than a seven-year itch, he loves to play and compete. He's a joy to be around. They both love basketball so much, and they are always the last ones to leave the gym. But they've meant a lot because they understand their roles, and the guys love them. And that right there speaks volumes about who they are."
As for their plans after they graduate this spring, Dick is hoping to find a job in finance close to the Austin area, while Melchionni is hoping to use his communications degree to further his career in sports broadcasting ... that is, if his initial plan of opening an underground sandwich shop fails.
Both, however, plan to keep playing basketball in rec leagues wherever they end up.
"Contrary to popular belief, walk-ons can walk and chew gum at the same time," Melchionni declared.