The men’s basketball team played one of Lawrence’s biggest rivals last Saturday, Ripon College. Though the Vikings won the second half, Ripon got the better of them in the first half, which in the end cost the Vikings the game. Looking at the final score, the Vikings only trailed Ripon by eleven points, the final score being 84 to 73. These two teams seemed to match up pretty well against each other; it could have been anyone’s game. Had a few things gone differently, a couple more shots gone in, or a few less from the opponent’s end, maybe Lawrence would have walked away with a big win.
To get the inside scoop on the game, I interviewed a senior on the men’s basketball team, George Mavrakis. I asked Mavrakis where his motivation came from in the second half. He said, “We fought really hard in the second half. It’s too bad, if we only had like five more minutes we could have ran away with it. It really makes you appreciate the movies like Hoosier, and Coach Carter. It’s a lot harder to make comebacks than it looks.” The team atmosphere internally shifted. They realized had made a few too many mistakes in the first half and that if they were going to have a chance at winning this game, they had to give it all they got right from the start of the second half. Starting the second half down 43-26, this task was going to be a difficult one.
Even though they did not end up winning, it is truly remarkable to see a team with high spirits and motivations. It would have been easy to give up and get slaughtered by Ripon, given that they were already trailing by seventeen points, but they pushed themselves and each other till the final shot. The real challenge now is going to be starting their games strong, with motivation and spirit.
I asked Mavrakis what he thinks his team needs to change in order to become more prepared to start the game. Does he think they need to change their routine before games, or does he think the team always comes out as prepared as can be? What does his routine look like on game day? Mavrakis responded, “My pregame routine starts in the morning by feeding my fish. They get fed extra on game-day because everyone’s gotta be locked in. After that I blast EDM music in the car on the way to the gym. All my teammates think I listen to the Chainsmokers, but I mostly play Blink 182 remixes. That really gets me going. Then before I walk into the gym, I have to throw on my favorite pair of shades. I’d say that’s the most superstitious part of my routine. It also helps protect my retinas.” You have to do whatever it takes to get in the right mindset. With happiness tending to be infectious, it would make sense that him feeding his fish and playing his favorite music would make him ready for the game.
On a different note, Mavrakis had a really good game in terms of his rebounds, having gotten seven rebounds during the duration of the game. I asked Mavrakis why he thought he was so successful in this area ? He replied, “People always ask me how I get so many rebounds. I’ll be honest. I give the majority of the credit to my teammates because they do all the work boxing out. I just let the bigs toss each other around down there and then at the last second, I go snatch the ball. It’s not really a technique, more of a mind set. Same reason ‘the second mouse gets the cheese.’”
Another admirable trait that Mavrakis possesses is his sense of modesty. It’s easy to point out the player who scored the most points and call them the “play maker,” but really it is the behind the scenes work, the pep talks during half time that no one else besides the players get to hear, and the right mind set, that lead a team to success. It takes multiple passes in order to make a basket, because you have to get open, and wait for the right moment to take your shot. One could not have scored if someone did not steal the ball back, or had gotten that foul, or did a slick move to get around the defender to get the ball to you in the first place. Everything is reliant upon teamwork, and if a team does not realize that, then they cannot function together and will not be able to move forward and become successful.
I asked Mavrakis: What is one thing you personally would want to change and improve upon the next time you play Ripon and one thing you would want your team to improve on as a whole? What would you say to the freshmen who still have four years left, while your time is almost up? He said, “There’s a young core here with so much talent. Going forward they have a lot of potential, but guys are gonna to need to step up and become more vocal leaders. I feel like we have already made a lot of progress in the last year developing a great culture. It’s tough, when you’re a senior and down to some of your last games, it really hits you hard. You have to cherish all the moments you get to compete. I talk about that with our other senior, Owen Mitchel all the time. People call us the spaghetti brothers, originally because Owen used to have long hair that looked like spaghetti. We are excited to share the floor on senior night, and give it everything we have left.”
Noticing how Mavrakis’s basketball era is coming to a close I asked him why he started playing basketball in the first place and why does he still continues to play it today? Mavrakis said, “When I was a kid I didn’t really like Basketball, but as I got older I realized…I like running, I like jumping, and I’m pretty tall. So one day I was like “Hey mom! Can—can you sign me up for basketball? I WANNA TRY IT AGAIN!” Here we are 10 years later….”
The final questions I asked him were: As a senior, can you picture yourself without playing basketball? Will you still continue to play for fun? He said, “I see myself being like the Vin Diesel of YMCA basketball. Like, they should have stopped making the Fast & Furious sequels years ago, but they just kept coming out with new ones. That’s how I want to be, the old guy who shows up every Thursday night ready to drop buckets. As long as I can lace them up, I’m going to be playing basketball.” Coming from a guy who at first had no interest in playing basketball, it shows that with that determination and that spark of love for the game you can achieve things you never imagined you could.
Lawrence hosts their last home game on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 1:00 p.m.