By Adam McDougall
My original plan was to go to Memorial University of Newfoundland this year, but with all the uncertainty caused by COVID, I changed my mind. Nobody really knew what classes were going to look like, nor did they know what the basketball season was going to look like (that is, if they were going to have one at all). I had known Matt Pennell '21 from our time together on the BNL U17 Provincial Team, so I already knew a little bit about the program at RNS based on what I had heard from him. Matt talked to Coach, and my Mom talked to Coach, and it eventually ended up that Coach Gay reached out to me. Pretty soon after that first interaction, I signed to come to RNS.
Being away from home took a little bit of getting used to, but it has been going pretty well so far. It’s not as hard as I expected it to be, to be honest. Everybody is going to have to move away from home at some point, so my mentality was that it would be easier to get it out of the way sooner rather than later. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced at my new home is just changing my study habits – just making sure that I’m making good use of the study time we get here. Sometimes back home I was not held to the high standard that I’m held to here, so for me, getting a handle on my study habits was key to ensuring I was successful academically.
That being said, I am by no means alone in my academics. The teachers here offer a ton of support, and Coach Gay is always on my teammates and me about keeping our grades as high as we can, so that pushes us to do well in school, even more than normal. Even more incentivizing is having guys on the team like Sam Alamutu '21 and Matteo Zagar '21, who have very good grades. Whenever there is someone like that on your team, you always want to keep up with them. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that there’s a competition between guys on the team in terms of grades, but when everybody on the team comes out of a class with an eighty or ninety percent, you definitely don’t want to be the guy that got a sixty. I never want to come in last place, and that’s the way I am with everything. Everybody on the team is wired in the same way, at least in that respect. We’re all competitive guys, so we push each other to do the best we can – whether that’s on the court, or in the classroom.
Knowing Matt before I got here definitely helped me adjust super quickly. Coming onto campus the first day, it was incredibly helpful to have someone that I already knew just to be around. Matt was someone that I had already played with. Someone who was already my friend. It just gave me someone to go to the gym with; someone who could introduce me to people and show me around. It never hurts to have a good buddy on the team to help you get acclimated, and in school he helped a lot. On the court, though, the chemistry I felt with my new teammates was evident even within the first couple days. It did not take long for everyone to grow a sense of chemistry, because everyone was working as hard as they could to compete and to win. The chemistry was completely organic, and it materialized incredibly quickly. The best part is, our chemistry is only going to get better.
The culture of RNS is a culture of competition. Everybody here is competing all the time. We work as hard as we can at all times – especially on defense. We are not just a collection of individuals here, we truly are a team. Coach Gay and Coach Henry definitely feed into that, but it helps that everyone on the team is here for the same reason – to get better at basketball and to get better opportunities for the future. As for my own future, I am definitely looking to pursue basketball at the next level, but I will not be leaving academics behind. I’m going to go somewhere that has an academic program that is a fit for me. Academics and basketball are absolutely my top two priorities.
The defining aspect that makes me a unique basketball player is my competitiveness. I am a very fiery guy on the court in terms of my attitude, and I do a bit of everything skill-wise. I bring that intensity and fire with my competitiveness, and that naturally makes me work as hard as I can whenever I step on the floor. That competitiveness comes, in part, from my parents, but it also comes from Newfoundland itself. From a young age, my parents would be the ones that would get on me if I wasn’t working hard enough. They’d tell me that I’d need to have that killer instinct if I wanted to succeed – if I wanted to really succeed – in whatever I was trying to do. Always competing with my sisters helped me hone that competitive edge, but what really solidified it was just being from Newfoundland. When you’re playing teams that aren’t from Newfoundland, they don’t look at you the same way they view any other opponent – they don’t really take you seriously. They just take that game as an easy win. Representing Newfoundland, and seeing how others viewed our team, definitely gave me a bit more of an edge. It gave me a chip on my shoulder that has allowed me to compete even harder than I would have before. That is where my competitiveness comes from.