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Collin Sawyer’s wild basketball career

Some choices are difficult to make, while others appear to be so obvious. Brandeis men’s basketball player Collin Sawyer (GRAD) made one decision that was almost obvious at the time, but ended up shaping the next six years of his life. 

 

Before attending Brandeis, Sawyer had to make a decision about where he wanted to go to school. The choices he was down to were Bates College and Brandeis. This was a big decision, but Sawyer described how the decision was easy in the end. Bates had a really good basketball team and he wanted to play, so he ended up coming to Brandeis. 

 

Sawyer’s first season was not the greatest college season ever. In fact, Sawyer found his first year to be one to remember and forget. According to Sawyer, the team was not good. This created a lot of tension throughout the program as the team went 8-16 on the season. Sawyer had very little play time to start the season but slowly got more and more as the season progressed. That was until he broke his wrist after the seventh game of the season. His Brandeis career was already off to a rough start. 

 

The team overall was in a strange spot. Sawyer found his teammates to be a good group, but it was difficult to keep the morale of the team up. The losses and disagreements with the coaches contributed to this rocky start. Sawyer not only had to make adjustments on the court but also in academics. He had a transition year before coming to Brandeis, which caused him to have to make a lot of adjustments in his studies. Although it was difficult to adjust to, Sawyer eventually found a way to balance school and basketball, and this carried on throughout the rest of his career. 

 

In Sawyer’s sophomore year, the team had a lot of reshuffling which resulted in a lot of play time up for grabs. He took advantage and began becoming one of the team’s best offensive weapons. In the middle of the season, Sawyer had a stretch of 10 consecutive games where he scored in double digits and averaged 13 points per game during that span. Although he said it was  “nice to be playing again”, Sawyer still could not say that he had fun during that season. This is because the team was still losing and losing is not fun. The final season record was 7-18. Sawyer did show an uptick in scoring as he averaged 9.4 points per game and 2.2 made threes per game on the season. Although he showed improvement, he was disappointed in himself. His final games he described to have left a “sour” taste, as he did not play as well in the conference games to end the season. In his three of his last four games of the season, he scored under 10 points and shot under 30 percent from the field. 

 

Sawyer went into his junior season believing that he was ready to make big strides. This year was coach Jean Bain’s first year. A lot of the team remained the same, so he knew that they had the talent, but that they just had to be better to win games. 

 

As the season went on, Sawyer just got better and better. The team overall was making adjustments from the previous coach. For example, coach Bain had the team memorize over 100 plays including some that were put on game day. Although it was difficult, the team did get better. The Judges went 18-11 on the season, and it was Sawyer’s first winning season. Although Sawyer once again scored the ball more, with 10.6 points per game, he knew he could be better. His performance was important, but he also wanted to make sure that his team was still doing well. The overall comradery was up as they banded together to adjust to the new coach. This was the start of an increased level of connectedness throughout the team. As they needed to move on from the old coach and work with the new. Not only was it a big mentally taxing season, but this was also the first season that was truly taxing on his body. He stopped scheduling Friday classes because of how most games were scheduled, but ultimately the physical taxing did not make a difference on his academics. Sawyer had already gotten adjusted to this lifestyle and got work done whenever he could. This sometimes included in terminals waiting to travel. 

 

Then came senior year. Sawyer knew that he could always be better and this year he wanted to prove that. During the summer, he spent extra time shooting and tracking his shot percentage so he could be more selective in game. This practice proved to be really important as Sawyer had his best season up until that point. He set career highs in points per game and field goal percentage during the year. His points per game jumped up to 15.6 and his field goal percentage was 47.6 percent. Most notably though, his three-point percentage went up to a whopping 44.2 percent. This was 6.1% higher than his previous season. He was truly becoming a lethal shooter. 

 

“I probably should have shot more than I did to be honest,” said Sawyer. 

 

Sawyer also found that he was getting used to the new coach as he began to overthink less during the games. 

 

“Because I know the first year with Bain… we didn’t know the plays that well, so you were kinda just hesitating and unsure of yourself at times. And you don’t want to get yelled at for missing a shot,” said Sawyer. 

 

The stronger performances led to better results. As Sawyer improved, so did the team. Their final season record was 17-8 overall and 9-5 in conference games. Three big losses against conference teams hurt their chances at winning the entire conference, but the team was still making progress compared to the year before. 

 

The next season didn’t happen. Sawyer was a part time graduate student at the time, so he didn’t get to practice with the team until the spring. Even then there were no games and so it was all about keeping everyone in the right mindset for the next season. 

 

In his last season, Sawyer wanted to win the conference and make the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament. Another aspect of this goal was to win player of the year, but Sawyer knew to win that, the team had to win the conference. His personal goal was quickly shaken up as the team added Tommy Eastman (GRAD). 

 

“I mean it was definitely fun at times. It takes a lot of pressure off of me having other guys who are threats,” said Sawyer. 

 

The scoring didn’t really matter to Sawyer. All he wanted to do was win and the team was indeed winning for the first half of the season. Then the team went home shortly for a break before returning to find COVID-19 issues had arisen. This caused the team to miss practices and games and resulted in 41 days without a game for the men’s basketball team. After that the season took a turn for the worse. Players had to get back into shape and the freshmen were lacking practice they missed. 

 

All of the sudden the season came crashing down. Their hopes of winning the conference flew away after losses against Rochester University and Emory University. The team ended with a solid 15-9 overall record but just 6-7 record in conference games. Sawyer also suffered a hip injury late in the season that caused him to sit with the trainers before games. 

 

Although the season had been flipped upside down, Sawyer still had one thing to do. That was to play his final game at Brandeis.  Sawyer ”came out of his death bed every day to play basketball with low efficiency,” added teammate Nolan Hagerty ’22. In a home game against New York University, Sawyer played his final game and he put on a show. 

 

“I did know in the back of my mind… I was maybe eight threes from tying the second place three-point record. So, I was trying not to think about that,” said Sawyer. 

 

Sawyer went off in the game as he scored 29 points with seven three pointers, which were both career highs. He stopped the NYU comeback in the second half and led the team to a 74-57 victory. Throughout the game, Sawyer was just shooting from everywhere. It seemed like he could not miss. He was unstoppable. 

 

“That’s definitely what athletes call the zone… It feels like you just throw it up there and it goes in. And there is no thought or hesitation in it at all, it’s just doing the entire time,” said Sawyer. 

 

Although Sawyer left just one three pointers shy of second place all time, he did leave 15th all-time in points, 10th in three-point percentage and fourth in free throw percentage. 

 

“Damn, I could have done better,” said Sawyer. 

 

Sawyer has spent a lot of time with Brandeis men’s basketball. Although he did not get to accomplish his goal of winning the conference, he still found it fun in his last season. 

 

“So even with the wins and losses not going the way we wanted, I still had a lot of fun with those guys,” said Sawyer. 

 

The team grew to be much closer together as the years passed by. Hagerty has known Sawyer for four years and he had this to say about him, “[Sawyer] has the hips of a much much older man and I am not sure how he walks let alone is a decent shooter.”

 

Overall, Sawyer had an incredible career on the Brandeis men’s basketball team. He acknowledges that although playing basketball was important, the most important thing was the ”guys.” 

 

“I will miss that. I will never get to laugh as frequently as that again. Those are some funny guys,” said Sawyer. 

 

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