I interviewed first-year Billy Lahart ’21 from Franklin, MA on his experience thus far with the Bates men’s basketball team.

Q: How has college basketball been different than high school?

A: The difference is in the professionalism. The guys on the team understand what it means to be productive and they come to practice with that attitude every day.

In college, presence of mind is so important. Margin for error is small. We practice like it is a game.

People talk a lot about the speed of the game, and that is certainly evident, but what I notice especially with this team is the level of talent and skill. This year we are heavily loaded with guards. We have guys who can shoot the lights out, and they will finish it. You see the ball go through the hoop a lot more than in high school. There is a jump in talent for sure.

Q: What have you learned so far by being a part of this team?

A: Nothing is given. We have a lot of talent and a lot of guys with natural ability but at same time these guys are up at 6:15 doing conditioning, giving 110% every practice…their desire to win is unwavering. Our unspoken mantra is: “iron sharpens iron.” The only thing going to make a teammate better is another teammate giving his absolute best. First-years to seniors, our team is made of absolute grinders. I think we will surprise a lot of people.

Q: If you could give advice to your pre-college self, what would it be?

A: The college process is just a naturally stressful process for everyone. The number one thing every good coach taught me is to trust the process. By struggling to find the right opportunity, I may not have savored the last few high school basketball games, practices and moments.

To high school Billy: live in moment and trust the process. If you keep working hard trust yourself, and the doors will open. When you walk through those doors and close them there’s no looking back. I have closed those high school doors but when I look to the future, I couldn’t be more excited.

Q: What are your thoughts on the coaching staff?

A: I think the effort they put in to coach the entire student athlete, not just on the court, is great. They care about coaching the whole person. Coach Furbush, Coach Verdell, and Coach Morin are clearly committed to helping make our experience at Bates the best it can possibly be. We are open to feedback and ready to learn. Just as a good grade is the goal in a class, a win is the goal in basketball.

Nick Beati ‘20 has also been awesome to have around. He is injured but has stepped in as a fourth “coach.” He is a brother but also a great coach figure to have. We are lucky to have him. He is an unsung hero. He does the little things that make the biggest difference. It is a testament to the culture of this team.

Q: Tell me about the first time you met the team.

A: I did an overnight in the springtime and I stayed with two of the guys. I got to meet a majority of the team and they were fantastic. It was a fun-loving group. This year, when we all got on campus, before I got a chance to properly introduce myself we were playing 5-on 5-pickup. It was really getting thrown into the fire.

That was my first impression. Before even talking to them, I knew they were going to be hard workers. I could tell immediately without talking to them that these guys love being on the court. I met them formally after that.

Q: What are you most looking forward to?

A: The obvious answer would be winning, but really I am also just looking forward to spending time on the road with the boys and all the little moments that when you add them up will make the experience so sweet. The number one vision I have is of celebrating a NESCAC championship.

Q: Tell me about your basketball career.

I have had a unique high school basketball experience. Junior year I went to school in Florida, I returned to Massachusetts for senior year, then did a post grad year at Deerfield, and finally arrived at Bates.

The reason I am so grateful for the opportunity to be at Bates and to be part of the program, is because there is a newfound sense of permanence for me. I have four years to give it all I can. Community is at the forefront of what I wanted for the college experience, and Bates has that. Whether that is on the court, in the classroom, watching other sports play, going out on the weekend; Kids at Bates care about kids at Bates.

For example, I was lucky to be put in Milliken House this year. I have my brothers on the court but I am also so lucky to have my friends back in Milliken. We play “2k” (a basketball game) when we come home until late at night. There is a sense of family in our “home away from home.”

Q: What is the leadership like amongst the players?

A: We are lucky to have two captains this year, Justin Zukowski ‘18 and Shawn Strickland ‘18, who, when they were first-years, made it to the championships. They are talented basketball players and good role models who understand what it takes and what attributes a team needs because they witnessed it. I think the value you put on that experience is priceless. When you watch our practices, they lead by example. They are the most professional kids on the team. They set a great example in terms of work ethic and attitude. They are definitely special.

Q: How do you feel about playing in Alumni Gym?

A: We have the best home-court advantage. I am most excited about being part of the intense and exciting atmosphere and I think about it every day. You can never write a game off when it’s in Alumni gym.

Q: What is something most people wouldn’t know about the Bates men’s basketball team?

A: We absolutely cherish breakfast after Monday morning conditioning practice in the fall. We can actually smell the sweet aroma of bacon seeping through the air vents in Commons. It taunts us but sometimes I am convinced Coach Seltzer (conditioning coach) did that on purpose.

Q: What do you want your legacy to be in four years?

A: Hardest worker, a winner, a good teammate.

Men’s basketball team practices in Alumni Gym to get ready for upcoming season . SARAH dU PONT/THE BATES STUDENT

Men’s basketball team practices in Alumni Gym to get ready for upcoming season . SARAH dU PONT/THE BATES STUDENT