Despite concluding the season with three straight losses, the Franciscan men’s basketball team nevertheless turned in a season that saw it break the single-season rebound record, graduate four esteemed seniors and reach a new echelon of university basketball under second-year Head Coach Joseph Wallace.
Among the graduating seniors are both the modern-era leader in assists and the leading scorer of the Division III era, Jacob Divens and Keoni Sablan respectively. With the team’s final contest, a 79-62 loss to conference opponent Medaille College, Garrison Holmes put his ninth all-time steals ranking into program record books. Fellow senior JP Dombrowski put three years of Franciscan basketball to good use, graduating second all-time in career blocks.
However, statistics alone cannot accurately account not only for four years’ worth of senior memories, but also for foundational achievements credited to the 2017-2018 Barons squad. A 5-20 season record, 4-14 in conference matchups, the finest performance since the 2014-2015 season, nonetheless pales in comparison to the sport’s impact on its roster.
Speaking frankly, Wallace spoke recently in an interview with the university Athletic Department about the seniors’ resilience during recent seasons. “Things were (tough) not too long ago,” he said, “and they are the cornerstone of the new era of Franciscan basketball.”
For their part, the seniors spoke early and often regarding the program’s impact on personal formation. “These four years have gone by so fast” said Sablan. He credited learned resiliency and spiritual passion to “every coach that has come through the program.”
Said Sablan, “It has been fun to be a part of that and to be able to grow on more aspects than just on the court.” The sentiment was echoed by Dombrowski, who said, after the team’s loss against Medaille College, that “this school has given me everything, it has really taught me how to be a man.”
The catalyst of basketball as an avenue toward authentic masculinity, said Holmes, “helped me grow into an actual man. I have had more growth here in four years than the rest of my life.”
Said Divens, “I had a really rough year before transferring here. … I am just thankful to God for giving me a second chance in playing when I thought it was over.”
The graduating seniors have done well to leave the team in good hands. The 2017-2018 season saw sophomore center Matt Trent come alive across the second-half of the season, averaging more than 15 points in the season’s final six games, to go with more than nine rebounds a game. In the season’s February 14 contest against Mt. Aloysius, Trent pulled down rebound 217 with 3:33 gone in the first quarter, good for a new single-season program record.
The 2017-2018 season also did well to provide the vastly improved squad with a portfolio of well-earned memories. The team worked past Pitt.-Greensburg in overtime, courtesy of Trent’s double-double and two clutch Sablan free throws with only a second to go.
Fast-emerging junior Juwan Perkins, set to become the team’s only senior for their upcoming 2018-2019 season, also finished the contest with 12 points and three timely steals. The forward averaged nine points per game in 14 games started, improving in field goal percentage from his sophomore campaign.
Talented freshman guard Sean Hickey, who demonstrated starter-quality talent in a 16-point performance on February 10 against D’Youville College, is set to see increased minutes with the departure of four core seniors. Also set for a larger team role is sophomore forward Joseph Schriner, who posted 21 points when the Barons edged the visiting Washington & Jefferson Presidents 82-80 on December 18.
Given the slew of developing talent waiting in the wings, the transition from the 2017-2018 to next year’s squad should prove a smooth one. Bolstered by smart coaching from Wallace, as well as dedicated contributions from reliable assistant coaching staff, the Barons appear all but a virtual lock to once again rewrite the record books come fall 2018.