June 4, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 53°F


Men’s basketball motivates team with “Bomber Belt”

As the Ithaca College men’s basketball program has raced out to a 12–6 record, the team has been awarding different players the “Bomber Belt” after every win to give recognition to a strong performer. In true WWE style, the belt is complete with golden accents to go along with the Ithaca basketball crest emblazoned in the middle.

So far, the belt has been awarded to 10 different players, each of which fills valuable roles for the coaching staff. Assistant coach Matt Smith emphasized that while the belt is given to the player who made the biggest impact on the game, it is not always predicated on who scored the most points. Graduate student guard George Sikoryak III earned the coveted prize following his Jan. 7 performance against Hobart College where he shot a perfect 7-for-7 from the field.

“A lot of times, it was the person that is super positive, playing great defense, and doing all the little things that don’t show up in the box score,” Smith said. “If [head coach Waleed] Farid and I reward those good habits, they are going to continue to happen.”

Smith also said the belt has been impactful in recognizing the younger players on the team who might not otherwise receive appreciation for their contributions. First-year student forward Gavin Schauder won the belt for his performance in the college’s 97–72 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Jan. 10, despite only logging six minutes of action.

“Our two big guys, Luka [Radovich] and Jack [Stern], got into foul trouble early,” Smith said. “Gavin came in off the bench and gave us a really solid three minutes. He played hard, brought some energy, and did all the right things on and off the court, and we gave him the belt.”

Smith said that the idea for the belt first came from Farid last season, and the coaching staff decided this season that they would award it to specific players. So far, the presence of the reward has added motivation and excitement to the locker room after games.

For the players themselves, the idea of winning the belt adds an extra layer of intensity and competitiveness to games and practices. Junior guard Andrew Geschickter said that while the team is not actively thinking about winning the belt during practices or games, it serves as a way for players to receive credit for bringing intangibles to that specific game.

“Each game is a unique challenge; a different circumstance,” Geschickter said. “Different people on a deep team like ours are going to contribute, so it just sort of happens naturally.”

Geschickter added that he thinks it is good for the team to understand that having the best stats is not all someone can do to help their teammates. Every game is a team effort, so filling your role and contributing as best you can is what can help the team perform at its best.

“It’s good to know that there are multiple ways to impact winning, and that’s something that we really believe in and reflective of our culture,” Geschickter said.

The most recent winner of the belt, senior guard Liam Spellman, won it after his performance Jan. 28 in a 63–52 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Though he only notched five points, Spellman led the Bombers in rebounds and steals with five and three, respectively.

Sophomore guard Logan Wendell has been another key contributor to the Bombers’ success this season, averaging 14 points per game and shooting 40% from 3-point range. He said he felt excited and encouraged when he was awarded the belt following his 24-point game Nov. 24 against Susquehanna University.

“It’s definitely great to have the whole team behind you, and we do a good job of rallying behind whoever gets it,” Wendell said. “It definitely kicks up the intensity level just a notch.”

Geschickter also said how important the belt has been to the younger guys on the team and their individual development.

“To know you had a positive impact in this program and to develop as a player and a man is something that I think is really important to all of us,” Geschickter said. “We want the underclassmen to have the same level of success we are having.”

Lucas Jafet can be reached at ljafet@ithaca.edu