The impact of leadership


Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Kevin Higgins

For many students, freshman year of college is tough.

Most everyone knows the challenges that the first year presents: a new school and new environment to acclimate to. And, of course, the waking up at 6:00 a.m. every morning for rigorous workouts, followed by another exhausting practice after class that afternoon.

Oh, you’re not used to that last part? Well, I guess you weren’t an NCAA Division I athlete.

Freshman members of the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team have experienced that, and it’s easy to forget that along with the daily struggles that come with being an athlete, they’re also brand new students.

The upperclassmen on the squad have been there and done that, many of them helping the younger players adjust to their new lives.

“I think it’s talking to them off the court, ensuring they’re in a good headspace,” sophomore Jacob Rigoni said. “Lead by example and show them the habits that coach wants us to create.”

Rigoni would know more about the adjustment from high school to college than just about anyone. He hails from Adelaide, Australia and had to deal with a mere 15 and a half hour time difference from his home in order to play his college ball in Connecticut.

Despite that, Rigoni finished fourth on the team last season in points per game (9.8) and first in both three-pointers made and three-point shooting percentage (75/45.5%).

Senior forward Abdulai Bundu echoed Rigoni’s sentiment with some words of advice for his new teammates.

“Stop procrastinating,” Bundu said firmly. “When you get into the season, you don’t have as much time (to do your work). Take care of your body. When you come in as a freshman, you’ve got young legs… but then the season comes in. All those beatings that you get in practice and games start to catch up to you.”

Andrew Robinson, a senior guard who is one of the more vocal leaders of the team, gave his input as to how he helps out his freshman teammates. 

“For me, it’s making sure they’re going to class, getting their schoolwork done,” Robinson said. “If they need anything – resources, professors, stuff like that – I just kind of help them out with all that stuff.”

Robinson also emphasized how important it is to teach freshman about life off the court.

“There’s a lot of (other) guys that can help them out with X’s and O’s,” he said. 

Andrew’s twin brother, Aaron, also talked about how leading vocally impacts the freshman.

“The coaching staff always talks to the seniors… just about being vocal,” Aaron Robinson said. “(We) are as vocal as we can be, just so that everybody picks up on things a little faster.”

Head coach Baker Dunleavy exacerbates Aaron’s point, gushing over how his upperclassmen have impacted the freshman.

“Our seniors are amazing,” Dunleavy said with a smile. “They are perfect examples. I get so many awesome comments from professors and staff members on how we do that… our freshman have been great in that sense, just following those guys.”

Rigoni explained that it’s especially hard for the freshman to maintain that balance all the time, so it’s important for older players to relate to them in those trying moments.

“Pull them aside and let them know you’ve been through the same struggles,” Rigoni said. “They’re all in really good positions here.”

The upperclassman on the team will continue to get the freshman up to speed as Quinnipiac has its home opener Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.