When Marqus Blakely — UVM’s strong, tough and poised basketball standout — has tears gushing from his eyes, you know it’s a poignant moment.
A week after sending off the UVM women’s star-studded senior class, the Catamount men’s program bade farewell to one of its brightest stars Sunday at Patrick Gym.
Blakely has more than 1,800 points and 1,000 rebounds. He has 156 dunks. And he’s on the brink of win his third consecutive America East Conference player of the year award. No wonder the sold-out crowd of 3,266 belted out a long ovation during a “Senior Day” ceremony to show their appreciation.
The feeling was mutual.
Shane Bufano snapped some great photos of the scene. Here’s the emotional comments from Blakely, some of his teammates and his coach after Vermont wrapped up a 22-win regular season by beating Binghamton at Patrick Gym:
Senior forward Marqus Blakely: “It didn’t really hit me until 10 minutes before the game, and I realized that all my family is here, friends, fans; literally everyone was here to see the seniors. Hopefully we will be able to come back here and play in the championship game here, but if not, it’s really been a great four years here. I wouldn’t change anything about it. Vermont is a great place, especially being a student-athlete. I just want to say thank you to all the fans, my family and friends.”
Senior guard Maurice Joseph: “It was very emotional for me. You think back at your journey, you think about the path that you took to get to this very point. Starting out at Michigan State, you think back at all the lessons coach (Tom) Izzo taught me. You think back at the transfer process, and coach (Mike) Lonergan taking a chance on me and allowing me to come here and do a lot of good things in my career. All these things go through your mind. Your family is here, your friends are here. It’s just an emotional day and I’m just happy we got a win.”
Head coach Mike Lonergan: “We have great fans. I’ve been here five years and we’ve sold out every ‘Senior Day.’ I told our guys that’s really something you should appreciate, it doesn’t happen in many places. No matter what our record is or who the opposing team is, 3,266 (fans) are here. It makes it really fun to coach here and it makes rewarding to be a player at Vermont.
“Those three seniors are special. I’m hard on them because I want to get a lot of them, I really do. I want them to leave here with no regrets.
“We get good kids here in every sport. It’s really fun to coach true student-athletes. This is a special place, so hopefully we can keep this season going.”
Sophomore guard Garvey Young: “I definitely felt a sense of pride and a sense of family with these guys to play my heart out and send them out on a good note. It was definitely motivational just seeing the support from the fans, the emotion, and just the love in the atmosphere.”