Blessings and basketball: men’s team spends Thanksgiving on campus to warm up for season

While most students at Allegheny are looking forward to a much needed Thanksgiving break with friends and family, the men’s basketball team will stay on campus and prepare for a non-conference game on Saturday, Nov. 29 against Penn State Behrend.

Gabe Seidman, ’15, claimed that there are some perks of staying on campus over break.

“Oddly enough, it is kind of enjoyable when all the students are off campus and you kind of have it all to yourself,” Seidman said. “It is nice to just unwind a little bit and not worry about school and sports and stuff like that.”

On the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving, the Gators will play against Carnegie Mellon University before a brief reprieve.

This season marks the fifth season for head coach Jim Driggs.

“Tuesday after we play Carnegie Mellon, [the team is] free to go and they get back on Friday. I believe we practice at 3 p.m.,” Driggs said.

The two-day window that the players are afforded makes it difficult for those who live further away to go home. A number of them will stay on campus and spend time together as teammates.

Evan Zabriski, ’17, discussed how many players on the team typically stay on campus and what they do during the break.

“I know last year about half of the team stayed on campus but this year more like 75% of the team will stay and the rest of the team will go home,” said Zabriski.

It can be difficult for students that live out-of-state to have to stay on campus all semester. Not being able to see family for months at a time can often times be taxing on college-aged students.

In the case of the men’s basketball team, that can mean looking for an alternative Thanksgiving experience through their extended family on the team.

“The kids who live a little farther away often end up going to a teammates’ house for Thanksgiving. It’s definitely a bonding moment when people allow you into their homes and share their family traditions and food with you,” said Seidman.

The comfort the players display by inviting each other to their homes for the holidays speaks to the chemistry they have developed both on and off the court.Though it can be tough not being able to visit family, being on campus when most of the Allegheny community has gone home does have its benefits.

“Usually everyone else is gone and it is just us on campus. There are not any lines at Brooks or McKinley’s. The downside is that there is not anyone on campus and it is usually snowing and we have to stay inside all day,” said Zabriski.

Being from Florida, Zabriski is among those for whom it would be impractical to travel home for just two days. He reminisced about some of his favorite family traditions that he now misses out on since he is away at school.

“Usually the big thing we do is watch football together as a family when it is on and I will not be able to do that. My mom decorates the house and I help her but now, being away, I can’t,” Zabriski said.

So instead, his family is coming to him.

“My parents are coming up three or four days before Thanksgiving. They are going to watch me play in a few games. And then after that we plan on eating as a family at the house they are renting,” said Zabriski.

For Seidman, returning home for break is a must.

“I’m planning on going home even though it’s an eight-hour trip. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and it’s always worth it when I get the chance to be with family,” said Seidman. “If I am not going home, I definitely miss my mom’s famous stuffing. When I am home for Thanksgiving, we have a tradition of going around the table and saying what we are grateful for and that is something I definitely miss when I am not home. At school, sometimes it can be hard to take a moment and just appreciate all of the good things in your life.”

Though each player has a different appreciation for Thanksgiving, most seem to have found a way to keep the holiday worthwhile, despite the demands of a busy basketball season.

For Driggs, the priority remains the product seen on the court.

Coming off of a 6-19 season in 2013-2014, Driggs, whose office is lined with plaques and trophies, will look to build on the team’s 2-0 start this year and will certainly have his eyes set on Penn State Behrend over break.

“I expect them to come back and be ready to compete and have a great practice and prepare for our game on Saturday,” Driggs said.