MENíS BASKETBALL COMPLETES BEST ACADEMIC YEAR IN PROGRAMíS HISTORY
When King Rice arrived in West Long Branch in the spring of 2011, his players learned very quickly that the program would have an unwavering commitment to academics. This past week, the Monmouth Men’s Basketball team reached unprecedented heights when it recorded a team GPA of a 3.31 for the spring semester and completed the best academic year in the history of the program.
In his first week on the job, Coach Rice was already emphasizing the importance of showing up early to class, sitting in the front two rows and opening dialogue with professors. Results soon followed. In the 2011-12 academic year, the team recorded a 2.94 team GPA. One year later, the team raised that bar once again to a 3.12. “Our success starts in recruiting,” says Rice. “We work diligently to find the right type of kids who want to be a part of our commitment to academics.”
The program’s emphasis on academics stems from a belief that the habits and confidence built in the classroom will carry over onto the court and beyond. Coach Rice explains, “We don’t have the luxury of choosing in which parts of our lives we want to excel. High performance, or underperformance, in one area of our lives will carry over to every other area.”
While they may build habits in the context of school, the players are better equipped for life with their newfound responsibility, timeliness, organization, planning and follow through. As they work for and earn success in the classroom, their confidence is contagious. It is not unusual to see one of the coaches holding a door for a player who is proudly announcing to the Boylan practice gymnasium that he just received an A- on his test.
Coach Rice credits assistant coach Sam Ferry for spear heading their academic efforts. “When you have a head coach who cares and you execute our plan on the level that we do, you are going to have tremendous success,” says Ferry.
With Coach Rice’s backing, Ferry and staff implement their academic program with, “high expectations and high accountability.” If you were to walk into the men’s basketball locker room, you would see each player’s name on the back wall, either above or below a blue line. This line acknowledges those players who have qualified for the Dean’s List the previous semester. “It’s not about doing enough to get by,” explains Coach Rice. “It’s about each person achieving his maximum potential.” As for the high accountability, Coach Rice has to occasionally remind Ferry to share this part of their academic program when he sits down with potential Hawks. A missed academic report Sunday night before you go to bed means you have an automatic 7:00 am study hall on Tuesday. If you are not “early” for class, you can meet with one of the coaches the next morning for a “5 at 5.” What’s a “5 at 5” you ask? Five miles, at 5:00am…with a partner.
The team’s approach to its schoolwork does not go overlooked by people outside the program. They are “some of the nicest and most engaged athletes I have had in class over the years,” says English professor Noel Belinski who has been teaching at Monmouth since 1996.
More than anything though, his team’s sound approach gives Coach Rice a peace of mind. The peace of mind that allows him to sit in front of recruits’ families and make the same promise that North Carolina Coach Dean Smith made to Rice’s family in 1988: If your son comes with us, he will graduate and he will be prepared for a successful life after basketball.
Believe.Compete.Succeed -- #FlyHawks