For the past six years Marist College has been sending an intramural basketball team to an annual tournament hosted at Boston University. Every year during the fall, tryouts are held by head coach Freddy Garcia to put a 12-man team together for the tournament in February. This team gives students who do not play varsity ball the opportunity to keep playing the game they love.
“It’s fun to be a part of a team and play better competition than just Marist Intramurals,” said senior point guard Troy Kavana, who has played with the team since his freshman year. “It almost recreates the high school basketball tryouts aspect.”
Garcia has been coaching the team for the past four years and had played on the team before that. He enjoys doing it and thinks it is a great thing to have at Marist. Garcia puts a lot of time and effort into this alongside working a job in president Murray’s office on campus. Garcia takes his coaching position very seriously and has good motives for doing so.
“I love to teach the game I truly enjoy,” said Garcia. “Teaching the game that I love and spending time with the future leaders of our community is the reason why I coach. Coaching is more than about winning and losing, but teaching life through the game. I focus on making the guys work hard for not only themselves, but for one another.”
You might think ‘what’s the point of a travelling intramural basketball team at a school that has Division 1 varsity basketball?’ The team and their coach take it very seriously and think it plays a big role in their college life. Not everyone who played high school ball is good enough to play Division 1, but they may have a shot at making the club team to travel and play competitively.
“I think it plays a major role in the Marist community,” coach Garcia remarked. “It gives the players the opportunity to meet other students at Marist and other schools. It also gives them an opportunity to play in a competitive environment at a regional and national level.”
Schools from all around the North East send teams to this tournament every year. The tournament is put together by an organization known as the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA). Each year the winner of this tournament goes on to a national tournament held in North Carolina. Last year Marist came in second, but a spot in the tournament became available and Marist got the call to go down to North Carolina. Their success has earned them recognition amongst the other schools involved, subsequently expanding their participation.
“It’s become way more popular due to the people involved,” senior small forward Sedrick Brower noted on the team’s development. “Teams remember us beating them and it drives them to want revenge, and that helps us get our name out there.”
The team practices twice a week on Fridays and Sundays. Garcia likes to play an up tempo style of basketball, which requires the players to run a lot of fast breaks. This can be very tiring for players who do not condition or practice the same way a varsity team does. Garcia knows this so he has his team do plenty of conditioning at practice.
“We may not be the biggest, strongest, most athletic team, but I make sure we’re the team in the best shape,” Garcia said. “The students practice and work extremely hard for one another and deserve to be recognized for the sacrifice and commitment.”
Just six years ago the team would only travel to the one tournament at Boston University every year. Although this tournament is still the biggest event on their schedule, the team has added close to 10 “regular season” games to their schedule. They also plan to participate in another tournament held at the University of Massachusetts in March. More and more teams are witnessing the success of Marist’s team, which makes coaches want to schedule games against them for good competition.
“It has tremendously grown and developed the last couple of years,” Garcia said of the team’s growth and success. “We now play season games that allows the winner a bid to the national tournament. This is offered on top of the regional tournament that we participated in during the team’s inception.”
The team’s success has turned some heads around Marist campus and also among schools in the North East who play in the tournament. Tryouts for the team usually get a pretty good turnout of students including a number of good ball players, which makes selecting the team hard on coach Garcia.
“Overall, I think it has received more recognition from my peers at the College and around the region,” said Marist intramurals and club sports coordinator Omar Sandimine. “ It is challenging to get the other students to notice but we do get a fair number of participants who tryout, which is a testament of what the team has done. Overall, most of the support comes from the athletics department.”
The team that went to nationals last semester had a plethora of talented seniors who were really the heart and soul of the team. The team lost five guys to graduation, four of whom were starters. This year’s team was selected about two weeks ago. Despite the losses of some key players, the team still feels confident about this year’s chances.
“As far as nationals goes I think we always have a chance,” Kavana said of this year’s team. “This year we have some new young talent, which maybe makes us better than last year.”
Anyone who plays sport knows what it is like to be a part of a team. This team gives students an opportunity to play in a competitive environment while developing new friendships along the way. This team develops certain chemistry after traveling around to games and tournaments with each other. Garcia often described his team as a family and believes they need to work for each other. This team developed from next to nothing and now has plenty of schools interested in competing with them. Coach Garcia is offering an opportunity for students to play the game they love with a team they will learn to love.