Rainy days and Mondays are not totally terrible

Monday’s weather was less than ideal except for cross country geeks and basketball fans.

The conditions were challenging, to say the least, for the state’s best high school cross country runners at the annual LHSAA Championships hosted by Northwestern State in Natchitoches. It was cold – worse than chilly – all day, from the first race at 9 a.m. to the 10th and last one that wrapped up in the 4 o’clock hour.

Rain started dripping shortly after 1 o’clock and the faucet popped wide open in time for the final race. For runners, for supporters, for race officials – misery. But for purists of the sport, ecstasy.

Cross country is not a gentle sport. It is postponed for weather less than football games are. The races are held in steamy and stormy weather. Blistering and blustery. The worse the conditions get, the more the degree of difficulty climbs, THAT’S when it’s truly cross country.

It’s more pleasant to enjoy sunny skies, moderate temps, and calm winds, but for a championship race in cross country, Monday’s conditions were optimal. Miserable, but optimal.

Speaking of optimal, let’s flip sports and congratulate (in chronological order) Grambling and Northwestern for basketball triumphs that earned national attention.

The Tigers put down Colorado (not Colorado School of the Mines, but instead, the Pac 12 Buffaloes) in Grambling, under the radar, Friday night.

Credit the Pac 12 (with plenty of sponsorship money, and social awareness, as influences) for sending its teams on the road to visit SWAC venues. The SWAC-Pac 12 Legacy Series was not the west coast win-fest oddsmakers expected.

Grambling led wire-to-wire in its 83-74 victory. OK, Colorado was overrated, you say? Two days later, the Buffs went to Nashville and gave their own remarkable performance, handling No. 11 Tennessee 78-66.

Donte’ Jackson’s G-Men were not alone in delivering noteworthy SWAC attacks. Texas Southern toppled Arizona State 67-66 in OT. Outside the Pac-12, Alcorn handled Wichita State 66-57. Seems like more than just hardcore Grambling fans might want to visit for some quality action at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center this season.

For NSU, the big news Monday was thought to be the second big NIL deal for freshman (true) phenom Hansel Emmanuel.

He is truly phenomenal although he hasn’t scored a point in two appearances during the Demons’ first four games. Emmanuel is, by far, the most prominent NSU recruit ever, defying all odds by getting a Division I college scholarship although he lost his left arm after an accident when he was six, at home in the Dominican Republic.

He became a social media sensation last summer on the AAU circuit for his spectacular dunks, 3-pointers and athleticism. This summer, he signed an NIL deal with Gatorade, which debuted a commercial featuring him during the NBA Finals. Then he signed a scholarship deal with Northwestern and new coach Corey Gipson.

Monday, Emmanuel announced his second major NIL deal, with T-Mobile. According to On3.com’s NIL valuation chart, with 4.2 million social media followers, Emmanuel is No. 9 at an estimated $1.5 million — which might have edged up a bit via the strong connection with T-Mobile.

Arch Manning (perhaps you’ve heard of him?) is No. 3 and Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young No. 4, both with $3.4 million valuations. Behind Emmanuel are names like Shadeur Sanders, Coach Prime’s son and quarterback at Jackson State, ranked 12th at $1.3 mill; Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker, 19th at $1.1; Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, 24th with a $971,000 valuation; and down home in Baton Rouge, LSU’s Keyshon Boutte is 25th at $969,000.

Yes, a freshman reserve basketball player at Northwestern State is well ahead of LSU’s next first-round NFL Draft pick. Such is the wild world of NIL. Emmanuel’s endorsements do not – as of yet – include any Louisiana law firms.

But that was NOT the biggest news for the Demons Monday. They made SportsCenter and lots of headlines by overcoming a double-digit second-half deficit and toppling (probably over-ranked, considering an earlier one-point escape of UAPB) No. 15 TCU 64-63 on the Horned Frogs’ homecourt.

Gipson’s Demons had been less than impressive in a 24-point loss a week ago at No. 25 Texas Tech, and at home in a comeback win over Division II Ouachita Baptist and a 69-67 stumble to a rebuilding Illinois State team Saturday night.

New week, new look, new entry in the NSU history books. The Demons’ only other Top 25 win was also a 64-63 victory, on a much bigger stage, in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament over No. 15-ranked Iowa, the Big Ten Conference Tournament champions.

Emmanuel was probably making SportsCenter anyway, despite his unproductive two-minute stint in the first half. He’s amazing simply by being there. But on Monday night, so were the rest of the Demons.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com