Monday, April 21, 2014

The Makings of a College Athlete

By Steven Henrici

Back in Teaneck, it was the big game of Old Tappan basketball for the 2013 State Sectional Semi Finals. Old Tappan came in at 18-9 and had lost  to defending State Champion Teaneck both times during the season in blowout margin. Sadly, things did not change for my Golden Knights, as we fell 92-66 to end our season. Me and our four other seniors tried to hold back our tears, knowing that this was the last high school basketball game that we will ever play. Although I did not play that much in my entire high school career, I was determined to keep playing in college.

I think part of me wanted to prove to people that I never got the playing time I deserved in high school and still had the athletic abilities to play in college. Another part of me just wanted to continue playing the game that I love. After the season ended, my high school coach did everything he could to help me pursue my dream of playing college ball. I was not recruited by any schools because of so little high school experience, so if I was to play at any school it would have to be as a walk on.

Coach always told me to put my education first. I got into to about 12 schools, most being local schools. In April of last year I had made a decision to go to Bloomsburg University and play basketball. Their coach had told me that I could come and try out but there would obviously be no guarantees, stating that they had many returning players at their Division 3 level.

In July, just  a month before school started I took one more look at St. Thomas. Aquinas College. I met the coach in person and talked to him for the first time. I went to some open gyms in the summer, met with the players and worked out with them.  I told coach how much it would mean to just be part of the team. At 6 foot 6, 220 pounds I was not your normal walk on. And Coach Anderson knew that.

After thinking it over with my family I decided to change my decision on Bloomsburg and stay home and attend St. Thomas and be part of the Division 2 basketball team there. Basketball was really important to me and going to St. Thomas meant I would have the best chance to play.

I had a really enjoyable freshman season this past fall as a walk-on at STAC. I built some very good relationships with the coaches and players and even got to play a little bit and be part of what turned out to be a very good team. We finished 15-14 and lost in our conference championship game, pulling two upsets on our way there. After the team went just 5-25 last year and had not made playoffs in 6 seasons, I felt really lucky to have jumped into this situation with a new coach and seven new players including myself. It was a honor being part of turning this program around for the first time in a while.

It was not all fun and games, though. This year was the hardest I had to work in my life between sports and school. In high school my basketball season began after Thanksgiving and ended no later than mid-March, this season began in July when I first had met with coach and began summer workouts.

In September when school began, I was also getting ready for basketball. Three days a week I was up at 5:30 in the morning to go and run at the local park with the team. We also lifted weights on the other days and had short individual workouts or ran “suicides” on the court. Conditioning was long, hard, and tiring but it was worth it in the long run. I don’t think we would have performed as well as we did during the season if it was not for all the pre-season work we put in. It was very tough to balance a college sport with my school work, but I was able to do it.

Through the ups and downs I really enjoyed my freshman basketball season at St. Thomas Aquinas College. I proved to myself and to other people that if you want something bad enough you can do it. Even though I did not play much at all in high school, I was able to come in as a walk on to a Division 2 program and play with kids at a very high level.

Steve Henrici is a freshman at St. Thomas Aquinas College studying Sports Management and is planning to minor in Journalism. He is hoping to manage his time with a future internship while playing on the Spartan basketball team. Steve aspires to a career in either sports broadcasting or sports writing.

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