One of the most interesting and gratifying things about coaching a basketball team is watching individual players develop into more specific and productive roles throughout the course of their careers. As players repeatedly see what they can do to help their teams have success (and, just as importantly, learn what they can’t do and what they should refrain from trying to do), the roles on a team become more defined and the team, as a result, becomes more efficient and (hopefully) wins more games. We have had a number of players go through pretty dramatic transformations here at Lafayette, but I want to use this diary entry to focus on our outgoing seniors, and one in particular, who have accomplished exactly what Coach O’Hanlon asks of everybody who comes through our program – They’re leaving it better than they found it.
Rob Delaney, who began his career with the Leopards as a walk-on and played very sparingly in his first two seasons, epitomized the kind of toughness and resolve it takes to move from the end of the bench to the starting lineup, and without question, he’s been one of the most important players, if not the most important player, in our program over the past two seasons. Jim Mower and Ryan Willen, two 1,000 point-scorers who had tremendous sophomore seasons and battled through numerous injuries, shooting slumps, and other obstacles as upperclassmen, will be remembered, along with Delaney, for their spectacular performances during the most memorable Patriot League playoff victories in recent Lafayette history. Andy Moore and J.D. Pelham, neither of whom played nearly as many minutes as their classmates over the past four years, both discovered ways to bring positive energy and “winning” to our program, whether it was on the practice floor, in a now-famous blog, or in the pre-game team huddle. Each of these young men improved and matured a great deal over the past four years, but the transformation of Nick Petkovich, the final member of our outgoing senior class, is worthy of particular mention because it demonstrates clearly the energy, enthusiasm, and pride that goes into the last months of a college basketball career.
Nick, although he didn’t play as many minutes or score as many points as Jimmy and Ryan, will go down as one of the best stand-still shooters to ever play in APK. The deep corners in our gym, over the past four years, have been dubbed as “Nicksville”, and anytime he was able to get a corner-3 off, everybody just waited for the splash down. However, it wasn’t Nick’s shooting prowess that improved so much throughout the course of his senior season, but rather his vocal leadership, overall aggression, and commitment to defending and rebounding that made him an irreplaceable part of this year’s squad. At 6’5”, Nick finished the season as our second leading rebounder and a player that we could always count on to bring a lot of energy to the court. On numerous occasions, Nick was given the task of guarding bigger or quicker players, and always fought his hardest to contain, defend, and most importantly, never back down from anybody. During the last few months of our season, Nick’s vocal leadership and effort level on the court only increased, as did the leadership and effort from the rest of our seniors, and it was clearly apparent that, at the very least, our team would be fighting until the very end. For this, his coaches and teammates could not be more grateful.
All the best to the coaches and players whose teams are still alive and participating in some March Madness, and thanks again to Chris for allowing me to participate in the CCT Diary Series.
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