Men's Basketball beats Hofstra, 94-78, in preseason charity game
When Jerome Segura set foot on the hardwood of George Bisacca Court at Alumni Hall on Monday night, there was more than the excitement of playing his first game of his senior season. There was an emotional tie to the game that went beyond a win or a loss.
While the scoreboard may have read 94-78 in favor of the Stags, both Fairfield and Hofstra University put aside the desire for a result and focused their attention on playing the game of basketball for a cause. All proceeds from the game – a total of $4,300 – benefitted Save the Children, a Fairfield-based organization that has helped so many who are dealing with the recent hurricanes and their aftermath.
For Segura and teammate Jesus Cruz, this game provided an opportunity for them as well as their teammates to make a difference in the lives of family and friends who were affected by the hurricanes that hit Texas and Puerto Rico. Segura hails from Houston while Cruz is from Carolina, the fourth largest city in Puerto Rico and due east of San Juan.
"I wasn't able to go home and help my family during and after the hurricane, so I wanted to do anything I could to help them now," Segura said. "I wanted to play my hardest and show my family I how much I love and support them. The team wanted to play hard for everyone back home."
For Cruz, this was also a chance to give back for the opportunity that Puerto Rico gave him as a member of the Puerto Rican national team that competed in the FIBA Championship over the summer. His desire to help give back to the islanders in need was a motivating force on a night that produced some nerves as he played for the first time as a collegian.
"Playing for Puerto Rico was the biggest thing I have ever done," Cruz said. "I take that with me everywhere I go whether it is in Italy or a conference game. Tonight I wanted to play to the best of my ability for my island. I know some people who are struggling because their houses were destroyed. That's why it meant a lot to me to help them out tonight. I was nervous at first but my teammates told me I had to play hard for Puerto Rico, and that's what I did."
Cruz scored 12 points in his debut by making 4-of-9 field goals – including a three-pointer – and 3-of-4 free throws. Segura picked up where he left off a year ago by dishing off seven assists without a turnover and grabbing three rebounds.
The two participating coaches showed some midseason intensity during the exhibition game but also knew what this night was all about. Fairfield Head Coach Sydney Johnson and Hofstra Head Coach Joe Mihalich were more pleased at the prospect of helping so many in need while coaching young men who had loved ones touched by these powerful storms. Hofstra has five members of its athletic department who are natives of Puerto Rico.
"We can't thank Fairfield University enough for hosting this very important event this evening," commented Hofstra Head Coach Joe Mihalich. "Save the Children is a wonderful charity that will assist all those affected by the recent hurricanes. Hofstra University and our men's basketball program urge every to do everything they can do to assist those in need."
Coach Johnson also saw this as an opportunity for growth among all the student-athletes on both sides of the floor.
"We know that Jerome and Jesus have been personally affected," Johnson said. "I think it is meaningful to these guys as we talk about being men for others. This team really wants to practice that. It's not just words we are shooting out there – it is who we are. I am proud how this team really embraced this by caring for each other and respecting each other and trying to extend this to those in need, especially their teammates Jerome and Jesus. I think this was important for all involved to show their desire to help people out there. Save the Children is going to help out a lot of folks and we are glad to be a part of that outreach."
When the final buzzer sounded tonight, all the fans that supported both the participants and the event witnessed some outstanding performances on the court.
On the Fairfield side, MAAC Preseason Player of the Year Tyler Nelson led all scorers with 30 points, while Matija Milin netted 22 points as both Stags were unstoppable behind the three-point arc. Both Nelson and Milin made six three-pointers on seven attempts.
"My teammates knew how much it meant to me and Jesus because of how much our communities were affected," Segura said. "They really wanted to come out and play as hard as they can to show that support. Both me and Jesus appreciated their support and the fact that they have been there for us over the last few weeks."
To borrow from those famous philosophers Lennon and McCartney, we can get by with a little help from our friends.