Men’s basketball works to finish season on a high note even with an injury in the starting line up


Amasa Smith

Brandon Smith, ‘16, and Chris Milon, ‘16, watch teammates Evan Zabriski, ‘17, and Andrew Sestina, ‘16, fight for a basket against Hiram College on Jan. 28.

Since losing starting junior Brandon Smith, ’16 to a torn ACL and MCL in an overtime loss against Kenyon on Dec. 9, the Gator big men have had to step up to fill Smith’s shoes. In the overtime loss, Smith was 10 for 10 from the field with three defensive rebounds.

Smith, a forward and one of the team captains, contributed a total of twenty points to Allegheny’s final score of 72 points. Although the Gators fell to the Lords in overtime, Smith was 10 for 10 from the field. Smith went from scoring in single digits to doubling his points per game at the start of the season.

“My focus changed and I put more effort in,” Smith said. “I started going to the gym after practices, plus its just a confidence thing. We were growing better as a team and that made me want to work harder.”

The game against the Kenyon Lord’s was more than just another home game for Smith, it would be the last game of his season. In the second half of the game, Smith injured his knee going up for a layup.

Smith soon had to consider options on how to deal with his injury. He had to decide whether to get his surgery in his hometown, Gahanna, OH or here in Meadville, PA.

“I decided to get the surgery done here because the surgeon had more experience,” Smith said.

Smith got surgery on his ACL and MCL on New Year’s Eve while his teammates were focusing on how to adjust in the wake of his injury. Andrew Sestina, ’16, Chris Milon, ’16 and Leslie Jamerson, ’15, all matching Smith’s height, have had to step forward in Smith’s absence.

“A lot of players on the team stepped up to take on some of his roles as a starter and team captain,” Jamerson said.

Milon was one of the players forced to rise in the wake of Smith’s injury, the forward had an increase in his minutes per game.
“In the pre-season we worked very hard to get in basketball shape. During the season it is the same story, we make sure to go hard in the drills in practice so that we are ready to play as many minutes as coach needs us too,” Milon said.

Stepping up to the plate, Milon has doubled his points per game. Milon has averaged eight points per game this season, a career high in his time as a Gator.

“I can accredit my increase in points to trusting the offense that the coaches came up with. The offense is put in place so that everyone can be successful if they cut hard, and look to score when their time comes,” Milon said.

Josh Valentic, ‘15, has been averaging 14 points per game this season alongside Evan Zabriski, ‘17, averaging 18 points per game. Combined with Milon, these players have been able to build up the Gator offense. All three players often hit double digits per game. Both Valentic and Zabriski are top ten scorers in the North Coast Athletic Conference, ranked 10 and three respectively.

“Josh is a smart basketball player, and knows the offense well so it is natural for a player like him to be able to build chemistry on the court with others. Evan is a very skilled swing man that can put together runs better than any other player in the conference, so as long as I keep my head up when I get the ball it is easy to them,” Milon said.

The Gators have posted the most conference wins this season since their 2009-2010 campaign. They currently stand forth in the conference with an 8-9 record.