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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Minute with McCloskey: One last Senior Day

The St. Joe’s men’s basketball team will play their final home game of the 2019-20 season on March 7 at 2 p.m. against the La Salle University Explorers.

With only three seniors graduating this season, the player presentation during halftime is not as likely to draw as strong emotions from the crowd as past seasons. Especially considering last year when Markell Lodge ’19, Lamarr Kimble ’19, Pierfrancesco Oliva ’19, Chris Clover ’19 and Mike Muggeo ’19 all graduated after being on the team for four seasons.

This season, the graduating Hawks include senior guards Toliver Freeman and Greg Smith and graduate transfer Dennis Ashley.

The jersey presentation to Freeman will likely draw emotion from the crowd, especially the student section. Freeman was a walk-on to the team in his freshman year. He was awarded the team’s George Senesky Academic Award in the 2018-19 season which provides scholarship to a walk-on for the spring semester.

Freeman averaged only one minute of play over his first three seasons with the Hawks. This season, Freeman has been a starter since the beginning of Atlantic 10 conference play. While this jump in minutes can be partly attributed to the lack of depth on the current roster, it is also due to the improvements Freeman has made on the court.

While there are only three players who will be honored at halftime this Saturday, this year’s senior game will be about honoring more than just these three players. The game day experience will be changing after this season.

The people fans see at every basketball game will no longer be sitting in the section behind the basket on the home-team side of the court. There are some people that will never step foot in Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena again.

The dance team will be graduating four seniors. The cheerleading team will be graduating 11 seniors. The Pep Band will be losing six seniors. 54th and Airborne will be losing all but one member of the executive board, which is tasked with attending every game and electrifying the student section.

What you see as a fan will no longer be present at the start of next season. The students seen screaming at players and referees and losing their voices chanting “Defense!” and “Let’s go, St. Joe’s!” will no longer be there.

Sam Robinson ’20, Kevin Duncan ’20 and Billy Legg ’20 have been the leaders of the student section for two years. The legacy they have built is one to pride themselves in. Regardless of how little success the men’s basketball team has had over the past four years, they have stood at nearly every home game ready to fight for the team.

The seniors on the Pep Band, despite being temporarily cut earlier this season, responded by playing their hearts out for an athletic department which turned its back on them. The seniors on the cheer team led the program to a national title in the spring of their junior season for the first in program history. The seniors on the dance team found repetitive success in their own competitions and placed at nationals in all four of their seasons.

Oftentimes, fans watching on the television fail to recognize the entirety of the game-day experience. The play on the court is just one aspect of the game. Put 10 players in uniforms on the court and have them play a game of basketball. That could happen anywhere.

What happens in Hagan Arena is much more than guys playing basketball. It’s an experience. An experience that will be different next season.

While the team itself will be older and wiser the rest of the game day experience will look unfamiliar. The cheer team will be primarily underclassmen. The dance team will have new leaders. The Pep Band may not exist. 54th and Airborne may just be one student.

Take the time on Saturday to appreciate the seniors graduating from more than just the basketball team. There are three players, four dancers, six musicians, 11 cheerleaders and five of the loudest fans I know graduating. That’s 21 individuals who impact the game day experience that are graduating.

Saturday will be my final home game as an undergraduate student. It is going to be emotional and difficult. But at the final buzzer, I will take a seat in the same spot I have had in the student section for the past four years, third row, next to the dance team, and look across the court of Hagan Arena remembering the incredible experience I have had in that gym.

We may not have made the NCAA tournament in my four years or won the A-10 conference, but we fought. I have smiled, laughed, cried, lost my voice, been threatened to be removed from the arena for screaming at referees and sat in silence after game winning shots to relish in the moment.

Four years of basketball games have come and gone for me in Hagan Arena, but the memories will last a lifetime.

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