BY RONALD SCHACHTER
On a Monday afternoon in March, about a half-dozen players on Nichols College’s men’s basketball team gathered at one end of the court behind the three-point line, more than 20 feet from the basket. It didn’t take long for their shots to start swishing through the net with consistency—and for their chatter and laughter to increase.
They had just swept three opponents in the Commonwealth Coast Conference playoffs to win the league title for the second year in a row, and were headed to upstate New York for the first round of the NCAA Division III basketball tournament during the coming weekend.
And although the Bison lost 103-86 on March 2 to a Plattsburgh State team ranked 16th in the nation, the team’s 2017-18 season rates as one of the best in Nichols history. The hoopsters’ 25-3 regular season record also represents the most impressive installment in a streak that has seen the team win no less than 20 games in each of the past five seasons.
For the past four of those seasons, Tom Glynn has served as the Bison’s head basketball coach. He hit the ground running in 2014, as Nichols finished with a 20-6 record that included a first-ever 17 wins against conference opponents. The team went on to 25-4 and 24-6 marks in the next two years.
Along with this year’s season, the cumulative success has even exceeded Glynn’s wildest ambitions.
“We’ve won 94 games in four years,” he said. “I never thought it would happen so quickly.”
For the past two seasons, Nichols has made it into the NCAA Division III rankings and the post-season tournament. What’s more, they began that run in 2016 with three first-year students and one sophomore on the starting team.
Now a sophomore, center and designated dunker Jerome Cunningham says that last season, he and his fellow classmates built on a winning tradition and a foundation provided by older players.
“Last year, we had a lot of seniors who guided us in watching film, how to practice, and how to prepare games,” he said.
“This year we were more dominant,” added Cunningham, as evidenced by a scoring average of over 90 points a game that placed Nichols in the top 10 of the nearly 400 Division III schools with basketball teams. In one mid-season game, the Bison put up an eye-popping 72 points in the second half alone.
Since arriving at Nichols three years ago, junior guard Marcos Echevarria has led the team with a better-than-20-point scoring average and as a captain.
“He’s a star,” Cunningham said of Echevarria. “He makes big shot after big shot, and that motivates us.”
Junior teammate Josiah Kimball recognizes Echevarria’s ability to rise to the occasion.
“He was handed the keys to the program in his freshman season, and he loves leading,” Kimball said.
Assistant Coach Mike Mailhot added: “Marcos is a great leader, on and off the court. When things aren’t going right, he’s a voice of calm. He’s definitely the best player in Nichols history, and he’s not done.”
Men’s basketball is not the only Nichols team to start a winning tradition. The men’s hockey team has consistently won for more than a decade. The men’s and women’s tennis teams are perennial conference champions. But the basketball squad has excelled at attracting fans who fill the bleachers in the athletic center for every home game.
“They’re entertaining to watch,” said sophomore Derek Vadnais. “They can shoot the ball, they can dunk, and they can play all facets of the game.”
Dennis King, also a sophomore, pointed to a more intangible appeal.
“It’s the atmosphere, the crowds, the energy, and the way the players feed off it all,” he said.
Said Coach Glynn: “I’ve been told by other coaches and players whom we’re recruiting that we have by far the best fan support.”
Glynn, in fact, has already taken to the road to find additions to next year’s team.
“We just got a commitment from a kid in North Carolina,” he revealed, adding that in recent years, he has also been able to better attract high school stars closer to home. “We’ve been able to get more Massachusetts players because of the program’s success.”
Click to view the Nichols College Men’s Basketball 2018 CCC Championship Win.