Growing up as a die-hard sports fan in Northeast Ohio, I was incredibly spoiled by the many options available. I was fortunate enough to grow up in Shaker Heights, just minutes from one of the premier Division III programs not only in the state of Ohio but the entire Midwest, John Carroll University.
Sports has never been my father’s main source of interest and entertainment. A lawyer by trade turned documentary filmmaker, my dad is more into the arts than sports, but he always made a concerted effort to bond with me over my true passion. That led us to the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Athletic Center on a cold, sunny weekend afternoon for my first-ever John Carroll Men’s Basketball game.
Even at this early stage, I still attended some rather large sporting events. My dad and I were fresh off following the Kent State Men’s Basketball team as they ran to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, attending games on Kent’s campus. Looking back, maybe he was trying to find something closer for us to enjoy together. I am forever grateful he did because I was immediately entranced with the entire atmosphere that the Blue Streaks had to offer.
I do not remember much about my first experience at a John Carroll basketball game. However, I remember the opponent was Ohio Northern, and the Blue Streaks came away with a close victory. Following the game, I went to my grandmother’s house, where I remained in the backyard, reenacting what I had just witnessed on the basketball hoop. While I have never experienced love at first site, this is the closest I have ever come to that feeling.
I like to consider myself a bit of a basketball junkie. From high school to college to the pros, I love it all. However, there is nothing like watching a John Carroll Men’s Basketball team play the game. Since I was young, the Blue Streaks have played such an enjoyable brand of basketball that I could watch them over Division I teams any day. They play with such vigor and pride at a pace that makes me sweat just watching it. I have unbelievable memories of attending games all over the state from random trips to Mount Union on a Wednesday night to conference championship battles in Marietta, Ohio. Every memory related to John Carroll Basketball is fond, regardless of the game’s outcome. While I was not there for this one, this game, in particular, sticks out in my mind as one of my favorites.
I had the honor and pleasure of working for the program as a JCU student. My admiration and love for the program only grew with this experience. Every player treated me with dignity and respect as I searched for friends on campus. Some might have questioned my ability to fit in at the school and with the team as someone with a Jewish background. I was not looked at any differently than anyone else, and while my time with the team was cut short due to a longstanding history of PTSD due to childhood trauma, I look back on my time with the program with pride and happiness. It was one of the best times of my life. I lived out a dream since I was a kid, and I cannot thank Coach Pete Moran enough for the opportunity and graciousness he showed me.
Sadly, due to traumatic circumstances, I could not live the happiest of childhoods. Anxiety often wrecked me as I struggled to feel safe in many situations. However, one of my lone saving graces in life has always been John Carroll Men’s Basketball. The DeCarlo Center has always felt like a home away from home. Even in my darkest hours, I would make a point to watch every John Carroll I could, as it was one of the few things to bring me immense joy during this period.
My goal in sharing this is to inform readers of my story related to John Carroll Basketball and express my sincerest gratitude to the program and players for lifting me when many players do not even know who I am. However, one former Blue Streak is undoubtedly aware of my existence, and I am incredibly proud to call him a friend.
Maurice Haynes is at the top of my list when I rank my favorite players from John Carroll. Not only was he a joy to watch on the floor, but he was also an incredibly gracious person with whom I struck up a relationship when I used to sit behind the bench in the family section at each game. I was a fixture in my “Moran’s Clan” tee shirt, often attending the game alone. I made as much, if not more, noise than the parents themselves, and Mo always would voice his appreciation to me whether in person or on Facebook or Xwitter. Every interaction I had with him back in the day would leave me on cloud nine, as these were more than just basketball players to me, but role models.
I am thankful to keep in touch with Maurice Haynes as he offers me encouragement in my personal life and is a great person to talk hoops with. I am excited to gain his perspective on this year’s squad and the teams of the past.
The John Carroll Basketball team is more than a collection of players, rather it is a family that is both welcoming and inclusive. Being a supporter is one of my greatest joys, and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into the analysis that will come from watching them play. This year’s team has the makings of an extremely special group that Northeast Ohio needs to support.
Alec Kwait has experience covering sports of all levels. But, his passion lies with mid-major Division I and Division III collegiate men’s basketball and provides Right Down Euclid in-depth access and coverage to programs like John Caroll, Case Western, Cleveland State and even Akron!
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