Morgan Mehring, Illustrator

It’s crazy how sometimes the smallest memories can to come back to you so unexpectedly. When I was a senior in high school, after being accepted into the UR, I would always look for excuses to come to the campus since I lived in the area. I found that one of the most enjoyable ways was to come watch the men’s basketball team play.

I’ve always loved basketball, and what made it even better was that, during 2012-2013 season, our men’s basketball team was good. I mean really good. Heading into the Division III NCAA tournament, they were a number-one seed and were expected to go far in the tournament. But those who were around at UR for that season probably remember a senior named John DiBartolomeo.

Now, as good as our team and our competition were, John was so good that he made everyone on the court look like your dad’s YMCA league team. He was a unanimous Division III All-American and the NCAA Division III Player of the Year. As a senior standing only 5’11” and a generous 165 pounds, he didn’t look to be anything that impressive.

But as soon as he got the ball in his hands, he was guaranteed to embarrass whoever was unfortunate enough to be guarding him.

I was so impressed by him that when I found out he planned on heading overseas to try and play professionally after graduation, I couldn’t help but follow his career.

He ended up playing for two years with Palma Air Europa, a third-tier professional team in Spain. He was quickly able to make a name for himself, leading his team with 15.1 points, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game and helping promote Palma to the second-tier professional league in Spain.  He even won Player of the Year honors.

After averaging similar stats the following season, he signed with Maccabi Haifa B.C., one of the best teams in the Israeli Premier League. This would offer remarkably higher competition than his previous experience in Spain.

During the NBA preseason, friendly matches are scheduled between teams from all around the world. There have been videos and snapchats of NBA teams playing in China, across Africa and elsewhere around the world.

But the most fantastic matchup so far took place in Los Angeles at Staples Center last Monday. When the Los Angeles Lakers played Maccabi Haifa BC, John DiBartolomeo, a point guard from UR who was always told he would never succeed professionally, played against one of the most historic franchises in NBA history and matched up against the great Kobe Bryant himself.

DiBartolomeo finished the game with five points on 2-5 shooting, four assists and two steals as Maccabi Haifa BC fell to the LA Lakers 126-83.

Lambert is a member of the class of 2017.


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