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College Basketball Cards: Your Ultimate Guide

Before diving in to the world of college basketball cards, let’s quickly talk college hoops. The home of storied programs, dedicated fanbases, and the greatest tournament ever created.  Every year, millions of fans fill out brackets and watch the future of basketball battle it out for a chance to cut down the net.  We’ve seen these teams turn into dynasties, and we also get a glimpse at the early greatness of some of the best to ever play the game.

Recently, we’ve seen the modern student-athlete be able to market themselves far more than in years past.  The NCAA’s new NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) rules enable players to partner with brands and capitalize on their abilities.  And thankfully, these new guidelines have resulted in some major moves in the hobby.

In June, Topps and Fanatics announced an array of new deals that would give them exclusive rights to many major D-1 programs and players starting in 2023.  This means we would be able to own licensed cards of future stars before they sign an NBA or WNBA contract.  However, college basketball cards have existed long before NIL deals or these recent acquisitions.

So today, we will give an overview of everything you need to know about college basketball cards.  We’ll showcase the companies making college trading cards today as well as the memorable sets of the past.  We will also try to offer some insight into the future of the college hoops market.

Let’s jump right in!

Who Currently has the Rights to Make College Basketball Cards?
1. Panini
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At the present time, Panini is the only company making collegiate products that include licensed logos.  They began making sets like Contenders Draft Picks and Prizm Draft Picks in 2015. This has extended their production to higher-end boxes like Immaculate, National Treasures, and Flawless.  These releases, which are always filled with the highest quality, typically do not come out until after the NBA Draft.  While many still open and enjoy these boxes, the allure of collecting a player’s card whilst in college has yet to be captured.

By using the same designs and technologies that brought Panini to the forefront of the hobby, they’ve made some memorable cards for college hoopers.  Take, for instance, the Zion Williamson 1/1 Game Day Ticket Auto shown above, which sold for $4,800 last year.

2. Topps/Fanatics
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Now we will delve into some companies who are creating college b-ball cards without logos.  The first, and most newsworthy as of late, is Topps/Fanatics.  Fanatics acquired Topps back in January, sending the hobby into a frenzy of predictions.  After acquiring the sports card giant, Fanatics CEO said in a statement that “Their iconic brand, commitment to product excellence, and passionate employees worldwide will allow us to immediately serve our league and players’ association partners and our fans.” And that branding has already been implemented into NCAA cards and collectibles.

Their first basketball release, 2021-22 Bowman University, utilized the iconic “Bowman 1st” set to highlight the premier talent in college hoops.  It featured autographs of top draft picks, including Gonzaga standout Chet Holmgren.  They also engineered some really neat insert sets for the product, including the “Big Kahuna” card of young phenom Mikey Williams shown above. With major Power 5 programs like Kentucky giving over licensing rights next year, it will be interesting to see what Topps/Fanatics can create next.

3. Leaf
Leaf

Another company known for its vast autograph checklist is Leaf.  Products like Leaf Metal Basketball give collectors a chance to find on-card autos at an affordable price. Sometimes, they are even able to secure autographed cards of prospects before they can be found in licensed products.  Take this Jabari Smith Orange Cracked Ice Auto for instance, which sold for $460 in June.  Smith currently does not have any pack-issued autos from Panini or Topps, so this card gives an early chance to invest in a top draft pick from 2022.

4. Onyx
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Finally, companies like Onyx also offer an alternative to higher-end collegiate products.  While they are still unlicensed, they secure big names for their autographs, and their sets have unique designs and appeal.

Which Companies Have Made College Basketball Cards in The Past?
1. Upper Deck
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For many years, Upper Deck releases a variety of premier products that featured players in their college uniforms.  This arsenal of beloved sets included Exquisite Basketball, SP Authentic, and the mythical Precious Metal Gems.  Because the Upper Deck name is so revered in the hobby, these cards still bring a heavy premium at auction and are highly desired.

It is worth noting that Upper Deck still produces college basketball products in a very limited capacity.  They have maintained the autograph rights to stars like Darius Garland, who has an Exquisite RPA in 2020 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions.  However, since Goodwin Champions is a multi-sport product, we did not include UD in the same category as Panini and Topps.  Regardless, their presence in the college card market is well documented and still in demand.

2. Press Pass
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Press Pass, a company most known for its racing card production, made some college basketball sets at a crucial time in the hobby.  Autographed cards of Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and Vince Carter are heavily collected to this day.  The brand continued to manufacture college cards into the 2000s, but these gems from the late 90s classes remain the most popular.

3. Classic
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Finally, we have the now-defunct Classic cards, which were primarily made in the early 1990s.  Their most sought-after basketball card is an early rookie of Shaquille O’Neal, which is one of the few to capture him in his LSU Tigers jersey. Most of these cards failed to retain their value due to the mass production that plagued the junk wax era.  But their clean and simple design still transports the collector back to a different time in basketball history.

Predictions for the Collegiate Card Market?

So what are college hoops releases going to look like in the future? As Topps can implement more logos and branding into its Bowman University product, we could see college cards transition into a way of prospecting future stars.  This is a very popular way of collecting in baseball, as people pay quite the premium for Bowman 1st autographs. It could also prove to be a good method of investing in a player if you truly believe they will be successful as a pro.  

We could also see the collegiate market serve as an inexpensive alternative to pro-uniform products.  This year’s Bowman University hobby box retails at only $120, yet it comes with 96 cards and 2 autographs per box.  For comparison, the recent 2021-22 Prizm Hobby Basketball drop went for around $1,300.  Obviously, Prizm and other flagship releases are regarded more heavily, but that doesn’t mean you cannot pull amazing hits out of college hobby boxes. Just check out this Chet Holmgren gold auto below, which sold for over $800 in June.

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Finally, we can see the collegiate card market remaining strong just based on the immense fandom college sports has.  Millions of students, alumni, and lifelong followers gravitate toward their school’s athletics every year, generating millions in revenue.  It isn’t a wild thought to imagine fans wanting a card of their star point guard before they hit the pros.  And with Topps inking more and more NIL deals, there’s no limit to how players and teams can be utilized on cards.

Do you collect college basketball cards? Let us know @CardTalkPod on Instagram and Twitter!

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Sports Strength

Ryan Razooky Explains Basketball’s Ongoing Evolution

In 2022, basketball continues to see its boundaries get pushed to levels one couldn’t have expected before and basketball trainers like Ryan Razooky are among those doing the pushing. Based out of San Diego, California, Razooky isn’t your typical trainer who teaches the X and O’s or only cares about their social media following; instead, he’s genuinely invested in the game’s growth and how hoopers of the next generation will be prepared to handle it.

“As fun as it is to be flashy, everything comes back to consistency and efficiency,” Razooky said. “Regardless of what some people may call a ‘pro move’ or too ‘advanced’ for younger hoopers if I’m able to teach them that and they become ready for the next level, why not do it?” At his gym, The Hoop House, Razooky and his staff teach hundreds of players every week as well as some of the game’s biggest talents at any moment–namely, Mikey Williams (a five-star recruit in the Class of 2023) and NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler.

ONE37pm had the chance to connect with Razooky to discuss basketball’s latest evolution, how he built his gym, and what it takes to maintain a productive relationship with famous ballplayers.

ONE37pm: There are plenty of ways to properly invest in training players, but you were able to secure your own gym which is now known as The Hoop House. How did that happen?

Razooky: It took years to happen, but I’m blessed there was good timing involved. Before building The Hoop House, I trained people everywhere– YMCA’s, parks, and even their houses. At that time, things came together; a gentleman had reached out to me about the facility, and crazy enough, I had reached out to him about forming a partnership there three years ago.

I was on my way to Israel to train Johnny O’Bryant III (A 2014 second-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks) when that guy called me and asked if I wanted the facility. I immediately said yes, we had the paperwork drawn up, and I went on to redesign the whole place with the help of some good people.

ONE37pm: How realistic is it for a trainer to own a gym instead of renting out of different places?

Razooky: It’s realistic, but there’s a lot of challenges involved. If you want to build a gym out of a warehouse, you must ensure the ceiling is high enough for basketball action. After that, you have to be patient with exploring the market for a location and getting permission or permits from your landlord and the city.

But despite those challenges, I highly recommend every trainer to look into this. You will feel so empowered by having your gym, and the possibilities are endless for what you can do.

ONE37pm: Given who you train and what’s happening in today’s era of basketball, how do you teach players what’s necessary?

Razooky: For us at The Hoop House, it goes back to our blueprint. We want all players to be comfortable using both hands, drawing contact, and shooting the ball with good form. In my opinion, if you’re able to do those things, you can be a JV or varsity player in your freshman year of high school.

As our players get older, we want to provide them with more options to play with. Expanding a player’s move set and teaching them how to ultize the pick and roll and any other situations is essential before reaching the college and pro ranks. I say that because when they’re a college player or a pro, specialization is appropriate and makes sense.

ONE37pm: When looking back at your experiences working with known talents such as Mikey [Williams] and Jimmy [Butler], why has it been successful?

Razooky: There’s an old saying, ‘the number one quality is your availability.’ These guys are willing to work out at any time of the day, and for me to be available and consistent with my effort further enables their trust in me. Once that is established, our relationship blossoms because I’m well prepared with what I want to teach them and flexible enough to incorporate their wants and needs.

Your communication and availability will dictate your relationship with your players at the end of the day.

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Sports Strength

Two of NYC’s Brightest Guards Introduce NIL Deals Back Home

Throughout its history, New York City has been a hotbed for innovation in art, sports, literature, entertainment and nearly every other field. With newly established NIL reform (short for name, image, and likeness) enabling youth athletes to be compensated for their acceptance of endorsements, it was only a matter of time before NYC became the stage for one of the biggest evolutions in modern sports history. And who’s leading the way? Two of the area’s most promising high school basketball stars.

Johnuel Flands and Ian Jackson, better known as “Boogie” and “Captain Jack,” are the first high school athletes in New York City history to sign NIL deals. The pair of five-star sophomores, who play for nationally top-25 ranked programs Archbishop Stepinac High School (White Plains, NY) and Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, NY), signed with the emerging social media platform, Spreadshop last week.

For the next six months, Flands and Jackson will get paid four figures a month to sell merchandise on Spreadshop and make weekly posts about the platform on social media. In recent years, high school basketball players have become viable celebrities with massive social media followings, so it was only a matter of time until they began to cash in on their fame.

But for a development of this magnitude to happen in New York City is a game-changer. Since New York is the biggest market in all sports and entertainment, these deals have the potential to significantly impact the college basketball landscape. Namely, it could help keep New York’s best players in New York. .

For several years between the late 2000s and mid-2010s, the area watched an exodus of players leave home and go to school out of state for reasons relating to a lack of opportunity and safety. Yet with more schools, both private and public, greatly improving their situations, the talent level coming out of New York City and its surrounding levels is returning to what it was two and three decades ago. And the addition of NIL’s will serve as the cherry on top.

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Sports Strength

St. John’s Aims To Recover After Stunning Loss At The Garden

Shocking losses are an inherent part of college basketball, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt. As such, on Saturday, the St. John’s Red Storm dropped a heartbreaker at home against the Pittsburgh Panthers, as Pitt’s Jamarius Burton hit a game-winning floater with 0.4 seconds remaining. Even with their current 8-3 record and sixth-place standing inside the Big East conference, the Red Storm understand that, as a probable bubble team, their chances of an NCAA tournament berth could hinge on the results of any given game, making this defeat extra painful.

Despite the absence of star forward Julian Champagnie (he tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday), the Red Storm led most of the game against their former conference rival. In the first half, the Red Storm came out strong, even building a 10 point advantage midway through the half. Throughout the second half, though, the Big East competitor witnessed their offense forced to take tough shots, not score inside the paint, and get blocked at the basket. Worse, they turned the ball over 10 times in the second half.

While this is definitely a bad loss to a mediocre bad Pitt team (ranked 186th by KenPom), it could also be a learning experience for St. John’s as they enter conference play. Once Champagnie returns, the Red Storm will have a chance to prove themselves as a potential Tournament team. Over the next few weeks, the Red Storm will play three of their first four conference games at home before entering a difficult three-week stretch on the road, where trips at No. 20 UConn, No. 16 Seton Hall, and No. 9 Villanova are on tap (January 8th-29th).

There’s no doubt the Red Storm has enough talent and coaching to compete for a tournament bid, but that isn’t the expectation for this year’s team. Deep down, they probably acknowledge an extensive postseason run next March can happen next year and that this year is more about building the foundation for consistent success. Going forward, the Johnnies won’t have to settle for lower seeds and play-in games, which ultimately led to their routine early-round exits during the Chris Mullin era (2015-’19).

But the Red Storm understands business has to be handled over the next two months. Every game is a must-win game, regardless of who’s on the court because that’s how championship-contending teams treat them.

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Sports Strength

Examining The 20-Year Losing Streak Of College Coaches In The NFL

At a certain point, a trend transforms from correlation to causation. For instance, over the last 20 years, college football coaches making their first jump to the NFL have failed over and over again. And that trend reared its ugly head late Wednesday night after the Jacksonville Jaguars fired now ex-head coach Urban Meyer only eleven months after they hired him.

For the past twenty years, college head coaches have struggled to translate their success to the NFL. Since 2001, only four out of 12 coaches have produced winning records in the pros, and only one is active right now: Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals. And who were the other three coaches? John Harbaugh, Chip Kelly, and Bill O’Brien.

When looking beyond the collective 237-258-2 record of former college coaches, we have to remember these coaches went to non-competitive teams and dealt with untimely injuries and changes. And while that’s considered a reasonable excuse for their failures, it shouldn’t be. Nearly ever new NFL coach enters a messy situation because, after all, teams don’t often make coaching changes when things are going swimmingly. Worse, coaches such as Kelly, Bobby Petrino, and Meyer were celebrated for being “program-builders,” who could teach their new teams the kinds of patience and discipline that led to championship glory.

It’s becoming evident that college coaches have to make a more significant adjustment with the NFL, even more so than the players. The latter have been preparing for this level since high school, so when any of them fail as a pro, it’s mostly that: Failure. But the same can’t be said for college coaches whose most recent experience consisted of having immensely-talented teams, non-challenging schedules, and a staff of assistants who do most of their hard work as they get to be a “motivator.”

Following Meyer’s ugly tenure with the Jaguars, one can wonder if both the NFL and college coaches will look away from each other. Even though Kingsbury can reignite their connection if his 10-3 Cardinals win the Super Bowl, it’s doubtful any college coach will walk into the same situation as him. If you’re an NFL team, be prepared to hire a coach already in the league and prepared to deal with the ups and downs at this level.

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Sports Strength

No. 3 Purdue Storms Back At The Hall of Fame Invitational

One of the most anticipated moments in sports, especially on the college level, is watching a highly-ranked team respond to a stunning loss. In any way, shape, or form, that team will make a statement and further create the narrative that will surround them in the weeks to follow. On Sunday afternoon, the Purdue Boilermakers let it be known what to expect from them moving forward.

The No. 3 ranked Boilermakers rallied back to defeat North Carolina State in overtime, 82-72. In front of a supportive crowd at the Barclays Center, the Boilermakers entered this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational determined to make up for their stunning last-second loss to Rutgers last Thursday. And while they did lose their No. 1 ranking, Purdue proved their championship mettle and toughness by regaining their composure and gutting out a win.

“It starts with our preparation,” Boilermakers starting center Trevion Williams said. “Coach [Painter] writes on the board before every game to stay patient and be aggressive. We want to make the right play and not rush anything, but we also understand when to take over down the stretch.”

Williams and guard Jaden Ivey served as the main catalysts for the Boilermakers’ comeback. The duo’s offensive efficiency (44 points on 17-30 shooting) and versatility (Williams had 12 rebounds and nine assists and Ivey finished with seven rebounds) keyed Purdue’s comeback after the Boilermakers fell behind by double digits.

And while some will criticize them for nearly losing their second consecutive game, that doesn’t concern the 9-1 Boilermakers. Minus their lone loss to Rutgers, they’ve secured a pair of big wins against North Carolina and No. 9 Villanova and shown the ability to dominate their opposition from start to finish (They won by an average of 28 points in five of their first ten games).

“Our ability to manage the noise goes back to our times together during the summer, at team dinners, etc.,” Williams said. “Those experiences have created the chemistry we have on and off the court, and it takes care of everything. We only focus on each other and believe in what’s best for the team.”

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Sports Strength

This Season Of Women’s College Hoops Is Off To A Crazy Start

This year, women’s college basketball is proving that time goes fast when you’re fun. As the season’s opening month concluded, we are left with plenty to discuss between noticeable upsets and a massive injury to the sport’s biggest star. Below are the three biggest takeaways from the opening month of women’s college basketball.

There Are No Elite Teams

Who says madness only happens in March? Although the Associated Press’ top ten teams were 52-11 in November, their 11 losses were the most by that group in two decades. Between the reigning national champion Stanford Cardinal and No. 8 Maryland losing two games each and undefeated No. 9 Tennessee just surviving a series of close contents, the possibility of massive upsets throughout this season is growing higher.

Ready or not, here comes the mid-majors!

Amidst all of the action surrounding the top ten teams in the country, there’s a movement growing within the mid-major section of women’s college basketball. Teams such as BYU, Columbia, and Stony Brook are not only off to hot starts but have players who are either league leaders in their conferences or across the country in various categories.

This development is noteworthy to watch as the season progresses and possibly sets the table for an unusual amount of upsets during March Madness.

Paige Bueckers’ injury change the courses for everyone, not just UConn

Few things in life that are more guaranteed than the University of Connecticut Huskies making their yearly run to the Final Four, but Paige Bueckers’s ankle injury threatens to end their impressive streak (the Huskies have made the Final Four in every NCAA Tournament since 2008).

With the sensational sophomore point guard expected to be out for nearly two months, this changes the entire dynamic of the season. Bueckers was the key to the Huskies making another championship run. If they don’t pull it together without her, the conversations about who’s a contender, the top 25 rankings, and bracketology entering March Madness will loom more significant than ever.

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What And Who Stood Out Most At The 2021 Jimmy V Classic

On Tuesday night, men’s college basketball was center stage at Madison Square Garden at the 26th annual Jimmy V Classic. The ESPN-organized event, named after late head coach and former ESPN analyst Jim Valvano, has become an early-season staple for primetime college basketball while also serving as an excellent way to raise money and awareness for cancer research.

The 2021 Jimmy V Classic witnessed sixth-ranked Villanova and thirteen-ranked Tennessee go against a pair of unranked yet tough teams in Syracuse and Texas Tech. Down below are our three biggest takeaways from Tuesday night!

There’s nothing like an energized crowd at the Garden

As arenas and stadiums across the country continue their return of having crowds at total capacity, there will be moments where the energy in those buildings is reminiscent of the past. During the two games that occurred at this year’s Jimmy V Classic, the MSG crowd was loud and supportive the entire night.

In particular, the introductions for Villanova’s and Syracuse’s starting lineups provoked goosebumps. The crowd was on its feet and showered each player with thunderous applause, especially Collin Gillespie and Jimmy Boheim.

Terrance Shannon Jr is an intriguing NBA Draft prospect

On a night filled with top-level talent, no player made a bigger impression than Terrence Shannon Jr., Texas Tech’s talismanic junior guard. The Texas Tech guard, who returned to school after withdrawing his name from last year’s Draft, put up 18 points and 12 rebounds in a 57-52 overtime victory against No. 13 Tennessee.

Whenever the Red Raiders needed a basket, Shannon Jr provided one, showcasing the combination of athleticism and touch at the basket that makes him such an intriguing NBA prospect.

Villanova’s patience pays off towards the end

Any team that has competed against Syracuse head coach Jim Boheim and his stifling 2-3 zone defense knows how difficult it is to gain a rhythm on offense. Sixth-ranked Villanova, though, was able to put together an effective—albeit ugly—offensive performance against their former Big East rival, pulling away from the Orange in the second half en route to a 67-53 win.

Despite attempting 50 three-pointers, and only making 13, the sixth-ranked Wildcats outscored their opponent in second-chance points (25-7) and won the battle on the glass (57-36).

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Sports Strength

Chet Or Paolo? Comparing The Two Best 2022 NBA Draft Prospects

In any given year, there’s usually one prospect who towers over his peers in the NBA Draft. This year, though, the conversation about who should be the #1 pick is more muddled. As we navigate through this men’s college basketball season, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero are considered to be the headliners of next year’s NBA Draft. But is it possible for either of them to become the draft’s leading man?

The pair of five-star prospects from the Class of 2021 represents what basketball is about these days: A game where positions are simply a label for which role you fulfill on paper but not on the court because of massive transformation of skills, play calls, and body types. Whether you prefer Banchero or Holmgren is one thing, but how do you feel about their collective impact and ability to transition between now and the NBA in possibly less than a year?

When looking at Banchero’s game at the next level, he will likely operate as a versatile combo forward with the ball-skills to be a go-to scorer on the perimeter and the size (6-foot-10 250 pounds) to operate inside. During Duke’s 84-81 win over Holmgren and Gonzaga a week ago, Banchero displayed his scoring prowess, putting up 20 points in the first half of that game.

But for everything to like— and honestly love—about the Duke product’s game, there’s an equal amount of things to enjoy about Holmgren, if not more. Even though Holmgren doesn’t have the same ceiling as Banchero as a scorer, he has a higher ceiling because of his potential as an ultra-competitive rim-protecting and playmaking center with the height (seven-foot) and wingspan (seven-foot-six) that NBA teams are drooling over right now. And by the way? Last year’s National High School Player of the Year can score, as proven by his 71% field goal percentage and 36% mark from downtown this season.

Even if both players have only had a handful of chances to showcase their talents to a national audience, both players have demonstrated their respective strengths and weaknesses. Banchero is not having a problem scoring at this level and being a leader, but he’s struggling with his conditioning and is limited defensively by his relatively short wingspan. On the other hand, with Holmgren, we have to see how he holds up against bigger opponents given his thin frame and whether or not he’s able to take over a game for Gonzaga when necessary.

With four-plus months remaining in this men’s college basketball season, there will be enough time to elevate, discuss, and support these tremendous young players.

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Sports Strength

Megan Griffith Discusses Columbia Lions’ Hot Start Following Lost Season

It’s one thing to follow up your previously successful regular season a handful of months after it happened but nearly two years later? That’s an entirely different ball game. Head coach Megan Griffith had just led the Columbia Lions women’s basketball team to their first-ever Ivy League Tournament appearance before it was canceled because of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.

As other conferences planned and resumed action in the fall, Griffith’s Lions and their Ivy League counterparts remained on the sidelines. While battling the impatience and uncertainty that defined the last 18 months for her team, Coach Griffith relied on the one trait that mattered most: perspective.

“Going back to the beginning [when the 2020 Ivy League tournament got canceled], we quickly learned anything can change,” Griffith said. “It was hard to accept that we couldn’t assume what was going to happen, but there’s something about this team where we’re so focused yet having a lot of fun.”

The balance between fun and focus is front and center for the Lions so far this season. For the first time in school history, they’re 5-0 and have racked up impressive wins over the likes of Clemson, Davidson, and Georgetown. ONE37pm spoke with Coach Griffith about this year’s Lions and how the nearly two-year layoff impacted every team, especially in their conference. 

ONE37pm: Following you and your team’s return to the court, have you experienced that moment of relief that you’re back in action?

Griffith: When we had our exhibition before the season, I had that feeling [laughs]. But now, I’m settled in and focused on being the best coach I can be for my team every single day because that’s what it’s all about. Our collective preparation and calmness will be the byproduct of our success.

ONE37pm: Upon looking at your roster, you have this quartet of guards that you can rely on and are versatile. How does it feel having that?

Griffith: It’s incredible and makes everything easier. As someone who watched this team, you know we always relied on one or two players to be our go-to players. But now, we have four options to choose from (Abbey Hsu, Kitty Henderson, Mikayla Markham, and Jaiyda Patrick), and they can contribute every night while also enabling our other players to do what they do best.

ONE37pm: Given what has happened to the Ivy League over the past year and a half, is there a common understanding that every team is on level zero?

Griffith: There is an understanding of that but honestly, who cares? We’ve all experienced the same kinds of change and readjusted the best ways we could. So at this point, it’s a matter of managing what you have. I’m proud of what we have, and the entire league should understand we have unfinished business, so we’re coming after them.