Men’s College Basketball – 6 Stories of Players Exceeding Expectations

By Steve O’Brien – Goal: College Athlete

Basketball recruiting Want to know what it takes to exceed expectations in Men’s College Basketball? At GCA, we have asked hundreds of Men’s Basketball Coaches coaches the following question:

Could you give us an example of a current or former player who exceeded your expectations, highlighting the reasons that player excelled?

We received some great responses and  wanted to share the following 6 to help young basketball players gain a better understanding of what it takes to get better, be recruited and ultimately reach their goal of playing college basketball:

Winston Smith – Drexel University – Director of Basketball Operations

I had a player by the name of Samme Givens who was an undersized post player. Although undersized, he overcame his shortcomings with hard work, determination and mental toughness. He was a good character kid, played with toughness and was a unselfish player. All of his teammates liked having him as a teammate. He was an extremely hard worker, that is why he scored over 1,000 points and recorded over 1,000 rebounds in his career. The one quality that I admired most about him was his leadership of the team. We got off to a rocky start in 2011-2012, but Samme was able to keep the team poised and they were able to win 19 straight and go on to have one of the best seasons in Drexel history with a 29-7 record. He graduated from Drexel University and now plays professionally in Holland.


Brian DeStefano – Harvard University – Assistant Coach

We had a young man in our program who turned out to be our best player from his Sophomore through Senior seasons. Prior to our arrival, he had hardly played as a freshman, and had zero Division I scholarship offers. Now he is actually playing in the NBA! What made him so special was he was not only our best player, but also our hardest worker. He never took a day off. If anybody deserved to do so, it was him, but he wouldn’t allow himself. Obviously he possesses a great deal of physical talents, but so do a lot of players at our level. What separated him was his work ethic and coachability.


Mike Jarram – Bard College – Assistant Coach

We have a freshman this year, exceeding expectations and contributing to changing our culture. We had a preseason shooting regime that required our players to individually get up 1,500 MAKES per week. Chris, was getting up around 500 MAKES a day and shooting 90% on the guns. Exceeding the 1,500 and getting 3,000 MAKES a week. This lead to him sinking more than 17,000 MAKES during our preseason. What’s more impressive about this is that it encouraged his teammates to get in the gym, whether based on the competitive factor of wanting to get more makes or a mentality of “if he can do it then why can’t everyone else”. It all contributes into making our guys better! Our guys shot more than 100,000 MAKES during the preseason. Chris was a driving force behind that. More guys were getting more reps and team cohesion was building. He helped create a “gym rat” feel in throughout our guys and every time we come to work as a coaching staff and see there were 3 or 4 different guys working out – that’s a changing culture! Simply a freshman standing out by being hungry to improve his skills and be successful.


Jim Aller – Eastern Nazarene College – Head Coach

Had a kid I cut my second year as a head coach. He was a 6′ power forward, which there seemed to be little use for. He came to my office after he was cut and just cried and cried. He was so disappointed. Nothing I could do. We only had 12 uniforms and that was school policy.

A couple of kids quit early in the season, so I invited him back on the team at Christmas Break in large part b/c he had wanted it so much that he cried when he was cut. He didn’t get many minutes that year, but his work ethic was very strong. Always working out in the weight room and shooting in the gym. Long story short, he started the next 3 years. Finished his career with 1600 points and a school record 899 rebounds – including 21 in a conference playoff game all as a 6′ PF. Desire, effort and attitude compensates for a lot at the D3 and NAIA level.


Bobby Steinburg – Kent State University – Assistant Coach

We have had a great deal of success stories here at Kent State. One recent student-athlete who comes to mind is Justin Greene who graduated in 2012. Justin came to us as a 6’7″ 250 lb, out of shape, un-athletic, undersized, post player from New York City. We had a scholarship left late in 2008 and one of our other assistants knew that Justin came from a very good program so we took a chance. As a freshman, most of our staff honestly thought he would be better off playing at a lower level (D2, D3, NAIA etc). Something happened between his freshman and sophomore year in the summer….he just started to “get it”…the game, the work ethic, the body transformation, etc. As a sophomore he was a 2nd team All Conference, as a junior he was the conference Player of the Year, and was a 1st team as a senior. He is now playing professionally in Europe.


Chris Murphy – Maine Maritime University – Head Coach

One of my players who graduated last year more exceeded my expectations than anyone I have worked with in over 25 years of college coaching. When first recruiting this young man I saw an overweight player with some ability and skills. Talking with him after that game he told me “coach, I will do whatever I have to do to become a good college player”. I have heard that same statement many times and rarely get that result. This young man not only worked on his conditioning and his game to the point where he became a two-year starter and captain of the team his senior year. He was a top level student and was involved in an incredible number of on and off campus activities, all of which he a found a way to do very well. He is undoubtedly the one individual I have coached that took the most advantage of the opportunities college can present. He is now employed by an internationally known company and has a very bright future. I have so much respect for what he accomplished that, for the first time in my coaching career, I named an award after him in order to inspire more players to make better use of their college opportunities.

Image Credit: Steve A Johnson


About Steve O'Brien
Steve O'Brien is the co-creator of Goal: College Athlete (GCA). The website was built to inspire young athletes to reach their goal of playing college sports. Information includes a pro-active plan to get the attention of college coaches and also insight from college coaches on what qualities they look for in a potential recruit. Steve played College Hockey at the University of New Hampshire, graduating in 1999. Questions? Send Steve an email at [email protected]

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