The Ithaca College men’s club basketball team will be attending the National Club Basketball Association National Championship for the first time in the team’s history April 6 to 8 at Indiana University. The team qualified for nationals by winning the North Atlantic Regional Tournament March 25 and is the only non-Division I school at nationals. The Bombers are the eighth seed of eight teams and will take on the University of Michigan in its first round matchup.
Sports Editor Matt Hornick spoke with senior Quadri Olanlege, the team’s president, about the team’s success, its new organization and the road to nationals.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Matt Hornick: How have you seen the men’s club basketball team change since your freshman year?
Quadri Olanlege: In years past, the team was run by one or two guys who did all of the work. What we tried to do this year was build committees to share the responsibility. That way people felt like their voices were being heard, so then they were more motivated to want to do stuff within in the club, which helped us both with being organized and working as a team.
MH: Do you think splitting up the work has made the team run more smoothly?
QO: Yes, but it also made things harder at times with so many heads trying to contribute ideas. It did help in terms of having people who care and want to do more for the team.
MH: Why was this the year that these changes were made?
QO: I don’t want to say it started with me, but with it being my last year on the team, I wanted to have one last strong season. It started over summer, talking with the rest of the executive board to make plans for the season. We reached out to our new faculty adviser who has helped us a lot with getting organized and that was something else we did, we brought in someone who has experience coaching basketball before.
MH: Has the talent always been there?
QO: The talent has definitely been there, it’s been more about managing personalities and managing how we practice. We’ve had more structure in our practices because those committees and having people build the practices beforehand. This has definitely helped in terms of development and in terms of getting guys ready to know what to do on different plays, because we have plays now.
MH: What has been the highlight of your season so far?
QO: The beginning of the season was pretty easy. We took a trip to Rochester and won our games against them easily. We stayed overnight in Rochester, which was a good bonding experience for us as a team, and then some guys went back to Ithaca the next day. Eight of us stayed to play against Roberts Wesleyan’s JV team who had beaten us in the past and we went in eight players strong and destroyed them. This was a big win for us because we only had eight guys and some of the guys weren’t our normal starters. Another big moment was regionals because we beat two number one seeds, and while we knew we deserved to be there, we didn’t think we were going to leave as regional champions.
MH: How has the team’s energy changed this year?
QO: We knew no team in our league is better than us and that we needed to get to nationals. Having that attitude throughout the season helped us push each other to get there.
MH: Describe the feeling of winning regionals, knowing that you had punched your ticket for nationals.
QO: It was a great feeling. I was just proud of everyone’s efforts. I was also a little worried in terms of how we were going to get there because I knew what our finances looked like before we played that game.
MH: What are your expectations for nationals?
QO: We don’t really have any expectations because we weren’t expected to be there. So we’re trying to go out there and have fun, keep making noise and hopefully make some more history.
MH: Describe how you fundraised for nationals.
QO: We actually reached our goal in under 24 hours. A lot of our teammates’ parents helped out tremendously, which is why we are bringing the whole team. We decided that everyone made a contribution to this team reaching nationals so we should take everyone with us. The school also matched our money, and we raised $700 on our own, so we should be set.