The college sports scene continues to expand in the state of Arizona. Players have never had more options to play coming out of high school than they do right now. Just last year, Arizona Christian University played it’s inaugural football season, and today Benedictine University in Mesa took it’s next step in developing it’s men’s basketball program.
The Redhawk’s first Signing/Media Day was held Friday, with seven players putting pen to paper with an additional three signed players in attendance.
The signees included many stars from Arizona’s high school and junior college community.
“There is growing pains that you go through, and I think that we will have those because we are brand new,” Benedictine head coach Steve Schafer said to the audience. “At the end of the day, I think that we’re not going to have as many as I thought we would because of the talent that we’ve brought in.”
Among those signees was Troy Conley, who played at Chaparral High School and Phoenix College, where he won a NJCAA National Championship in 2014. With a newly formed roster, Schafer highlighted someone with college postseason experience and success is vital to have, and Conley plans to help lead the team with that experience.
“Coming from a winning program, you want to everyday improve yourself on and off the court and be a team player first. So if we accomplish those goals, I think we could be special this year,” Conley said.
Schafer was faced with the unique challenge of recruiting players without a team, history, or facility to show off. Instead, he showcased what he had.
“I wasn’t not sure what type of talent we could get in year one because I’m new to the Valley,” Schafer said. “We sold our coaching staff and our academic opportunities, we sold our university and all the things you can achieve and experience here. And we have playing time; that’s also a huge sell to kids. Playing time is wide open in year one, everything is open.”
He also presented his potential signees with a challenge. Everyone sitting at the table Friday accepted.
“When we talk to these kids, we talk about being on the ground floor of a brand new program and help write the script, write the history books, help us build a culture, and start from scratch. These kids really bought into that. It’s a unique opportunity that not a lot of kids get to do.”
For signee Monnard Brown, who had multiple Division-II offers, putting his fingerprints on a newly formed program and staying in Arizona was a huge draw to sign with the Redhawks.
“Honestly, that’s kind of what sold me, just being able to come here and build from the ground up,” Brown said. “We don’t have any expectations, we don’t have anything. We just set our own goals, build our own way, and set our own path.”
The path is continuing to build, and Schafer said the goals of the program are to develop as people, students, and athletes. The next step was taken by these players on Signing Day, and in turn helped develop the program.