Tristan Eastburn ’08, Richard Hempel ’08, Dan Lewis ’10 (photos by Dan Bretl ’07)
The week started early this year for the Sarah Lawrence basketball team: They showed up at Campbell Sports Center every Monday at 7:30 a.m. to run drills, practice their jump shots, and learn the plays that would help them compete in the Hudson Valley Men’s Athletic Conference.
“It said a lot about our guys that they were in the gym bright and early every Monday,” said Coach Joe Ross.
“They made a commitment, and it paid off.”
This was the first year the Gryphons competed in the conference, which provided stiffer competition and an expanded season of 15 games stretching from November through February. It was also Ross’s first year coaching at Sarah Lawrence, after spending several seasons coaching at SUNY Purchase and St. Joseph-Brooklyn.
Leading the Gryphons this year were forwards Pete Hempel ’10, Dan Lewis ’10, and Tristan Eastburn ’08, while Jonathan Callahan MFA ’08 provided some potent scoring punch. Hempel was Hudson Valley player of the week in December when he led the Gryphons in scoring and rebounding.
The Gryphons’ first conference victory, against Pratt in late November, showed the team’s dedication and grit. The game started poorly, with the team stone-cold, missing 17 of their first 18 shots. Near the end of the first half, they trailed by 20 points, 28–8. But the Gryphons’ defense stiffened. The shots started dropping, and by halftime they were down by 13. In the second half, their tough defense resulted in several turnovers; the Gryphons clawed their way back in the game, and by the final buzzer had won, 52–49.
“That game showed me so much about our guys,” said Ross. “We’d never beaten Pratt, and it would have been easy for them to think that they never would. But they played hard and crept back. They never quit.”
Callahan, the point guard and a graduate student in writing, was the leading scorer that night. Graduate students are eligible to play on the College team as long as they didn’t use up their eligibility as undergraduates. Callahan attended the University of Hawaii, where he didn’t have a chance of making a team that plays on the Division I level.
Now in his second year at Sarah Lawrence, Callahan, 25, said that the thrice-weekly practices and the games provided structure to his day, allowing him to develop his writing voice while also working on his three-point jump shot.
“I decided to do it,” said Callahan. “I felt like I’d never have a chance to do this again.”
—David McKay Wilson