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Dedicated, Engaged, and Relentless: Our Purchase Hoopers

By Dorien Barthelemy

The Purchase Men’s team during shootaround, the national anthem, and introductions (Photos by Dorian Barthelemy)

Bleachers take up the gymnasium, from the wall up to the blue belt stanchions that lie right outside the basketball court. Dozens were in attendance, speaking to one another, many in awe as the athletes before them soared into the air with bursts of excitement and eagerness as they punished the basketball rim with thunderous slams. Dunk, after dunk, after dunk, “HAYYY!” after “HAYYY!” after “HAYYY!” High-fives and huddles, the camaraderie more alive than ever.

“When I entered the gym, I already felt the energy from the players warming up knowing that the game was theirs to win,” said Purchase freshman Udel Phillips, who attended the game.

The Purchase Men’s Basketball team took down Five Towns College in a blowout victory at Purchase College on Nov. 30, 2023.

A huge contributor to the team’s convincing win was physical and mental preparation. “We opponent prep for anyone we play,” said Purchase Men’s Basketball Head Coach Dan Bozzelli, when asked about the team’s preparation heading into the game. “We’ll do segments in practice where we’ll go against their actions, a way they play defensively, and we’ll work on their reads,” he said.

Coach Bozzelli also explained how, with the help of the assisting coaching staff, scouting reports are provided to players. Further, the team goes through film sessions of the opposing team, eventually doing walkthroughs and live runs in practice a couple of days in advance of the game. “Everyone learns a bit different in athletics, even in the classroom,” said Coach Bozzelli. “We have visual learners, we have doers, we have individuals that are readers,” he added.

Purchase forward and communications major, Soren Holmbo, showed a full understanding of the coach’s demands before the game and what the team needed to do to ensure victory. “Coach was really pushing us to close out because they got some shooters and to block shots because if we emphasize those points, then the results will be good,” said Holmbo, a sophomore.

However, the team’s star player, Matthew Phillips, shares a personal ritual that helps his engagement mentally. “A unique pregame ritual I do is that I run and grab on the rim right before tipoff and then look up to the sky to my pops who passed away a few years ago,” said Phillips, the six-foot-seven-inch-tall Purchase forward.

In the first half, the Purchase men's squad pounced on Five Towns early. Purchase shot 18-35 from the field from easy lay-ups while knocking down five deep three-point shots compared to Five Towns’ seven-for-21 shooting as a team.

Team box score for Five Towns (above) and Purchase (right)

According to Coach Bozzelli, the team’s unselfishness played a huge role in their ability to build an early lead in the first half. “We really shared the ball well, at halftime we had eight or 12 assists,” he said. “Sharing the ball better and giving it to your teammates in positions where they are going to be successful is something that we stressed,” Coach Bozzelli added.

Purchase leads over Five Towns’ 44-23 after the first half (Photo by Doien Barthelemy)

The Purchase cheerleading squad was active when it came to demonstrating school spirit, with a variety of cartwheels, poses, chants, and an interactive halftime basketball parody game.

The second half of the night’s game was a show much like the first, with Purchase creating more shots for themselves and scoring more efficiently than the opposing team. Purchase took 41 shots from the field in the second half to Five Towns’ 34, with Purchase converting 22 of those shots compared to Five Towns’ 12. “I was surprised that they didn’t let the score get to their heads and they continued to play with the same intensity,” said Udel Phillips.

Purchase cheerleader’s performance during a second-half timeout (Photo by Doreen Barthelemy)

If the game had a play that could sum up the night, it would be one of Phillip’s posterizing dunks that got the crowd on their feet and the benches out of their seats! “Matthew Phillips had a great dunk in the second half that really energized us,” said Coach Bozzelli.

Coach Bozzelli was impressed with the approach of several players, whether it came to their play and influence on other teammates. “I was really impressed with how Raquan was engaged defensively in help,” said Coach Bozzelli. He also spoke on how his ability to be in the gaps from the start set a great example for other players such as Trevor Mooney, Rashid Nikiema, and Omari Hart.

Six-feet-four-inch-tall senior guard Issac Johnson in the motion of shooting a free throw in the second half (Photo by Doreen Barthelemy)

When it came to in-game adjustments, the Purchase team was as sharp as they could be on the offensive and defensive end. Coach Bozzelli described how, in practice, the team was urged to drive the ball with the knowledge that there was an open teammate in the corner. This happened to be a focal point in one of their early timeouts. During the game, the team was also pushed to challenge number three on the opposing team and apply full-court pressure onto him. The Five Towns’ player, who averaged 19, was held to only 11 by the Purchase team.

The importance of the win, similarly to the others, was not overlooked either by the coaching staff or the players. “Winning college basketball games are extremely difficult,” said Coach Bozzelli, “and to win a game at home is a really big momentum pusher for us.”

Phillips hopes the win can drive momentum for the team and heighten his chances of being recognized for his high level of play. “I will show why I am a Player of the Year candidate,” he said.



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