The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

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

Their fight and grit stole my heart


How I became an avid fan of a smaller school

The St. Joe’s men’s basketball team recently finished out their season with a loss to the first seeded Rhode Island University Rams. St.Joe’s held the lead for the majority of the game but eventually fell due to high percentages from the three point line late in the game. And I’d like commend the Rams, on  their run in March Madness, but more importantly would like to congratulate the team  on an inspiring and productive mid to late season push, despite crucial injuries.

It’s going to be the second year in a row, though, that our own team won’t be actively participating in the whole of March Madness.

As I continue to watch what has turned out to be one of the most exciting and unanticipated tournaments ever, I’ve noticed something that I view as a really interesting and favorable trend or tradition at St. Joe’s. From a college basketball fan’s perspective, it’s almost as though we have the best of both worlds. We have a historic and exciting basketball program, yet have the luxury of our star players staying for four years, allowing us as fans to build relationships and really get to know the guys. 

Of course, to root for a team like Duke or Kentucky would be exciting, given the biggest names and hottest prospects land there for a year until they’re shipped to the pros. But there, it’s a different type of fandom, and in my perspective, a less legitimate and more robotic one.

There are Duke fans all across the country. There are people in China wearing a Kentucky jersey right now. To be a St. Joe’s ’s fan without some sort of affiliation with the school, or living within the general proximity of the Philadelphia area would be almost kind of strange. To me, this type of exclusivity is what makes the triumphant times that much more special, and the bad times that much more heart wrenching.

Maybe that speaks to my selfish and braggadocious attitude as a sports fan, but I take pride in our basketball program, and I think that might have to do with the fact that I see the players around campus and I know the work that they put in everyday. Here, you get to watch kids come in as freshmen as they grow into leaders of not only athletics, but of our prestigious community.

When I watch Mo Bamba of the University of Texas, Austin or Deandre Ayton of the University of Arizona, it’s easy for me to see that they’re ready for the NBA. Not to say they don’t play hard, or give it their all, but they know, the universities know, and the fans know that the only reason that they came there is because they were required to by some outdated and pointless regulations that are designed to make annual profits for the institutions.

If you’re a fan of those teams, the elite, I’m sure it’s fantastic to enjoy the newest crops of the most highly-touted talents, but once you learn to love and appreciate their players they’re off to the pros, and more than likely have cut ties and disassembled any type of allegiance to the school.

When I think about my two years here at St. Joe’s, one player exemplifies what I’m attempting to propose here: Shavar Newkirk ’18.

One of my first weeks at school, a couple of friends and I went to play basketball in the O’Pake  gym. We started running 5 on 5’s on the main court, and when it was our turn to play, two of my friends and I needed two more players to complete a team. Two guys we didn’t know were shooting around and the one said, “we’ll play.”

As the game started, I noticed one kid in particular was an unbelievable talent. He was shooting half court shots and draining them, making the defenders look silly, and pulling off some moves that probably have never been seen in a recreational gym. It wasn’t until weeks later that I saw a flyer for the men’s basketball team and realized that kid was none other than Newkirk .

Fast forward to the semi-finals of the Atlantic 10 tournament. Newkirk is playing his last game as a senior here at St. Joe’s. An awkward brace is wrapped around his knee, and a foot injury sends him to the bench late in the game. Despite this, he’s creating shots, working his ass off, and perpetually chasing loose balls. You could see in his eyes how much this game meant to him, and that he had no intentions of losing.

Unfortunately, Newkirk won’t get his A-10 championship ring, but hat he will get is an outstanding commemoration from myself and the rest of the basketball fans who, for the last four years, have watched him grow into a passionate leader and put everything on the line for this program. He has become one of my favorite college basketball players of all time, and it makes it even more special to me that I have gotten to meet him off the court in a civilian and normal way.

As guys like Newkirk and James Demery ’18 wrap up their time here, I look forward to continuing my fandom of guys like Charlie Brown ’20 and Taylor Funk ’21. Luckily, these next two years I have here will be filled with guys who share Newkirk’s mindset.

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