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Big adjustment awaits prep athletes in the college ranks

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By Steve Smith

Ask anyone who’s made the transition from high school to college, and they will tell you about the necessary adjustments.

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Even though creature comforts often make the trip to a dorm, some other staples of everyday living — an alarm clock, study habits, laundry duties and where to find food — make the trip, too.

Making the move from high school to college athletics entails its own set of changes. Just ask former Brighton High School athlete Michael Goward. He went to the College of Idaho in Caldwell, about 30 miles west of Boise. It’s an NCAA Division III program.

“This season, I experienced far more than I imagined not only in basketball but living in a new state,” he said. “I feel very blessed to have the opportunities of going to school while playing basketball. I have nothing but great teammates and coaches around me, and it doesn’t hurt when you’re in a winning program.”

Goward hit the ground running.

“I didn’t have much time to adjust to the college schedule. When school started, so did basketball practices,” Goward said. “Scheduling my time between studies and sports isn’t new. If anything it’s just taken away from my free time.”

Goward played in 14 of the Coyote’s games. The squad was 28-6. He averaged about four minutes of play per game. He scored nine points and grabbed nine rebounds. His most notable home-state win was a 78-74 triumph over the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

He found his biggest adjustment in the intensity and level of play.

“It was great,” Goward said. “I learned from players better than me, while I continued to work for a spot on the team’s rotation. The experience was much better than I expected.”

The 28-win season propelled the Coyote to the second spot in the National Association of Intercollegiate Division II rankings. The squad won the Cascade Collegiate Conference regular-season and conference-tournament titles. The team’s 15-game winning streak came to an end in the first round of the national tournament.

Goward knew who was responsible for the success.

“With the addition of our new head coach, former UCLA assistant Scott Garson, he built a fun and positive environment throughout our program. Practices became energized, hard-working — but most of all, fun.”

 

Ethan Trujillo  

Ethan Trujillo took his talents to Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and learned a few things.

“This year was a great learning experience for me,” he said. “I did enjoy my football season and am going to work for more playing time in the upcoming years.”

Trujillo noticed the increased work load.

“It is a lot more work with football and with school, so I am learning how to manage my time better and learning just how much more competitive it is,” he said. “I just sort of get into the routines of my classes, practices and homework.”

The Knights split 10 games last season. Trujillo got into one game and carried the ball four times for 11 yards.

“I guess I did not really know what to expect. In some aspects it is harder than I thought it was going to be, but in other aspects it is easier than I thought it was going to be,” Trujillo said. “I am just trying to enjoy playing my sport for as long as I can.”

 

Collin Tabor

Former Brighton basketball standout Collin Tabor got off to a rough start at Webster University in St. Louis.

“An injury sidelined me for the first part of the season,” he said. “But as soon as I got the OK to play, I came out and proved I was one of the top freshman recruits. I didn’t get a lot of playing time this year because we had a really good varsity squad that was upperclassmen-heavy. I learned a lot taking a back seat to them this year. I had a lot of fun and became a better basketball player in the process.”

His biggest adjustment was the speed and intensity of the game.

“You have to make quicker, smarter decisions while you are on the court. You also have to react much faster to pressure because a defender is constantly in your face, it seems like,” Tabor said. “Also, the skill level of players and opponents is at an all-time high. In college, you play the best of the best every single day.”

The adjustment to college was, in Tabor’s words, “an eye-opener.”

“Classes and homework challenge you a lot more as a student and all-around person. You really do find out what kind of work ethic you have the first couple months,” Tabor said. “Basketball never really clashed with my schedule. I was fortunate to have an early class schedule followed by late practices every single day. The only hard part was finding time to better yourself on your own personal time, whether it is going to the weight room, conditioning, or just going to the gym to work on ball handling, shooting, etc.”

The Gorloks finished 20-8 this season.

“The experience is more than I thought it would be, actually,” Tabor said. “I knew it was going to be tough. But I was up for any challenge. I just couldn’t wait to show college coaches and players what I could do, so I was very excited when the season came around. We play basketball 24-7. Whether it’s open gym, skills practices, or working on shooting form, you are constantly trying to get better so you can be the one on the court making plays. 

“I love everything about this new experience because, one, it’s challenging my athletic abilities and, two, I am becoming the best student athlete I can be,” he added. “You definitely have to buy into the whole process. College sports is like a job itself. Instead of a desk with a stack of paperwork, our work area is a court with two hoops. You have to be fully committed and dedicated to becoming the best player you can be. Don’t be discouraged by the obstacles because there is a long road ahead of you. If you were once the star in high school be ready to become a role player until it is your time to shine. Have patience and your time will come.”

“Listen to those who have seniority over you. They are your mentors, and you can learn so much from them,” Tabor concluded. “Stay proactive with your studies and find a balance between tour academics and tour sport. That is very vital when it comes to being a college athlete.”

Contact Sports Editor Steve Smith at ssmith@metrowestnewspapers.com.