St. Michael Boys Basketball Overcomes Adversity; Upholds High Academic Standards
St. Michael High School’s boys basketball team has truly upheld a tradition of excellence throughout the years. With 22 state playoff appearances that include qualifying for three state semi-finals in more recent years, the SMHS team has much to show for hard work on the court.
Lead by Head Coach Drew Hart ‘92 since 2007, the team began this season with a handful of momentous victories over some tough opponents, including a win over the U-High Cubs, a feat that has not been accomplished since 2014. Unfortunately, since the start of the 2021-22 season, the team has faced a few obstacles, including an ankle injury by leading senior and college prospect, Anthony Igiede. But there is a silver lining, according to Coach Hart, who mentions that this group possesses the highest averaged team GPA (at a 3.5) since his time as the Head Coach. “I am extremely pleased with this team’s academic success,” he states proudly. “When you have players that can succeed in the classroom as well as on the court, it opens more doors and opportunities to play collegiately. The Division III level offers more academic scholarships to athletes.”
Despite facing the difficulties of Igiede’s injury, game cancelations, and quarantines due to Covid, the team remains steadfast with an 8 – 8 season record thus far. “By going through some adversity this year, it will benefit them and carry over into other areas of their lives after high school,” explains Coach Hart, who is hopeful to get Igiede back on the court and keep everyone healthy in time for District games at the end of this month. “When Anthony went down, the team lost a big player. Then, to add to the chaos, we have played our toughest opponents, top 5 ranked teams, without him these last four weeks. We have also had 4 games canceled that we, most likely, would have won,” he states. “If we can start playing well and get back on a winning streak in February when playoffs begin, I think the positive mental aspect of the game will return, and we will have a real chance at making it far.”
Igiede, who leads the team athletically and academically, says that he knows the team takes their academics seriously and holds themselves to high standards both on and off the court. “First and foremost, we are students before athletes. We are held accountable and always perform our best in the classroom, and that carries over to performing our best during games,” he explains. “We are in a little rough spot right now, but I expect the team to cherish each moment we play and take it day by day. With Covid protocols and injuries a lot of things can halt the season. That is why it is important to play hard every day.”
Sophomore Hayden Bessonet, who maintains above a 4.0 GPA, says that he expects the team to continue to fight for victory every game no matter what is thrown at them. “Come playoff time we’ll be locked in because of the adversity faced throughout this season,” he states. “I believe that our commitment to always strive for excellence is a motto of the team on and off the court. Our coaches always preach to us about how important our futures are beyond basketball.”
As the season progresses past the halfway mark, the team continues to stay focused on their game and plan for success with efforts that require not only the skill but also the intelligence to accomplish. “The real overall success of this team at the end of the season will be learning how to play as a unit and not as individuals, which is something we have been working on since day one,” concludes Coach Hart. “The academic maturity of this team is high so the guys are bright and can pick up things quickly. I throw a lot of stuff at them, and they are more than capable of doing the work that keeps us in the playoffs.”