Since he enrolled at Saint Joseph's in November of 2013, Brendan Casper has yet to start one game. His career high in points is 7, he's never averaged over more than 3 points or rebounds per game, and he's played just 257 minutes, barely enough to finish six college basketball games.
Despite all of that, Brendan Casper has been a vital part of the Saint Joseph's program for the past four seasons. Even though he might not be a superstar scorer, since the day he came to Saint Joe's, he has been a pioneer in spreading what he calls “team culture,” in the locker room.
The 6-foot-6, 213-pound forward describes team culture as the mindset of playing for each other and being stronger as a team. In other words, playing for the team name on the front of your jersey, rather than playing for the name on the back. The team culture of the program hasn’t always been there, according to Casper. Before he came here, the basketball team wasn’t always as unified as they needed to be.
“Some guys weren’t all in, some guys were, and that was the biggest difference in the locker room,” he said. ”Sophomore year was our one bad year. We kind of leaned on DeAndre [Bembry] all the time, and we all expected him to do great things and we wanted to follow it and we ended up not having as good of a season as we wanted. We understood that if we want to win, just like my freshman year in 2014 and last year in 2015, we [will win] because of everybody, we were a team, we didn’t rely on one guy. And sometimes, you can rely on a guy and it does work, but most of the time, that's just so very hard to do.”
Reflecting on his sophomore year and seeing what the 2016-17 team has to offer, Casper believes that “with this year's team, we don’t have a guy coming back who can carry the torch.”
Although Bembry was one of the best players in Saint Joe's history, his departure might not be as bad as people might think. Casper argues that it forces the players “to all step up, [so we] all have to contribute in our own ways, and I think over the last four years I’ve been here that that has been the culture, and it has to be the culture. I think it's very hard relying to win on one guy, so that is kind of our motto. You have to be a good team, everyone has to contribute their part, everyone has to do their part, everyone has to be all in.”
The team culture Casper describes is apparent after looking at arguably the top three players on this year’s team. Shavar Newkirk, James Demery, and LaMarr Kimble had a combined 21 schools offering scholarships coming into their freshman years, including Iowa State, Providence and Tennessee. These schools have gone further and had more berths into the NCAA tournament than Saint Joseph’s in the last six years. All of these players had options about where they wanted to go, but they decided to pick Saint Joseph's and now make up a large part of the team culture. Part of the reason that you see such a commitment to the program is a philosophy that “basketball doesn’t last forever but an education does.” Casper is a walking example of that.
The former two-and-a-half year walk on is especially dedicated to his academics. Casper is a multiple time honors student who was named to the NABC Honors Court recognizing academic excellence, SJU Athletic Director's Honor Roll for both semesters of 2016, and the A-10 Commissioner's Honor Roll in the spring of the same year.
His schedule is meticulously created. He always schedules his classes early in the morning so he can get his classes done before practice. In between classes he gets his homework done so he can go to practice in the afternoon. The team captain’s dedication to his team is not only seen in the classroom, but also on the court.
“All the guys look up to me now, being one of the two seniors, so this year I’m more of a leader on the team and guys look up to me,” Casper said. “When you see guys working hard, they want to work hard as well. So that's my goal, to go in every day and work hard and hope guys follow. I’m trying to be one of the leaders on the team this year because we are a younger group. I’ve been a part of two championship teams, so I understand what it's about, especially when I lead those guys and show them by example that you have to work hard if you want success. So, that's kind of my goal, I want to leave my legacy saying like, you have to work hard to get where you want to be and hopefully the younger guys will follow in doing that.”
Brendan Casper isn’t your typical player. He's neither a flashy and-one scorer nor a sharp shooter or a defensive wall, but he means so much to a rebuilding Saint Joseph's team. He provides leadership, experience, and a contagious amount of motivation to be the hardest working player on the court and in the classroom.
Photo: Sideline Photos, LLC
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