High Scores cover

High Scores

Regis women's and men's basketball programs flourish on and off the court

By Allyson Manchester

Potos By Kathleen Dooher

Regis Today Spring 2017

Several days before Ademola Afonja ’19 suited up for his first game on the Regis men’s basketball team, he arrived to practice expecting to work on some last-minute dribbling, passing, and shooting. Instead, Coach Nate Hager handed him a detailed sheet of names and statistics.

The sheet was a scouting report, an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of individual players on the opposing team.

“I looked at the report and felt like I was about to take a math test,” recalls Afonja, a long and lean athlete who stands at 6’5”. “I was so confused because I had never seen anything like it before. On my team back in high school, we just had to worry about playing defense and scoring.”

Before every game, Hager conducts meticulous research of opposing teams and reviews film of his own players. His office, a tiny room above the gym, has walls lined with stacks of books and binders. “Hager is brilliant,” says Afonja. “He will sit in his office and analyze film for several hours at a time.”

While Hager’s studiousness certainly prepares his team for games, it has also helped to fortify a culture of academic excellence within the basketball program. The players view their coach as a model of a successful student-athlete.

Hager is the first and only coach of men’s basketball—he began in the team’s inaugural season when Regis went coed in 2007. Since then, Hager has focused on establishing a winning program in order to recruit high-quality student-athletes.

Left to right: Brittany Stone '18, Sam Jean-Giles '17, and Amanda Hawkesworth '17 have all scored over 1,000 points during their Regis basketball careers.

“Basketball is an extension of the classroom,” Hager explains. “It is my responsibility to create an environment of learning that enables all of us to reach our full potential.”

Jaiwon Martin ’17, a forward from Coral Springs, Florida, has thrived in the environment of learning that Hager describes. “Our coaches always check in to make sure that we are meeting our academic goals,” he says. “And my teammates help to point me in the right direction when I’m struggling on a subject.”

The coaches hold mandatory study halls for players who have a GPA lower than 3.0. But attending study hall has become a rewarding experience rather than an obligation.

“I have a 3.3 GPA and I still attend study hall,” says Afonja. “I believe that going to the study hall is what got me the 3.3 in the first place, and I don’t want to lose it.”

Of course, Hager and the team leave time to relax after school and practice. The players participate in team building events and dinners after Saturday home games. Additionally, Hager invested in an Xbox gaming system “to see what the guys were talking about in the video game world.”

Women’s Winning Streak

In the 2015-2016 season, the Regis women’s basketball team was the NCAA Division III women’s basketball statistical champion at Rebound Margin at 16.0 for the season. NCAA consecutive regular season wins began February 8, 2011, with a win over Western New England University. The streak includes the final four Commonwealth Coast Conference games—and every NECC game played (108–0)—bringing the current streak to 112. The previous NCAA record was 92, and was broken February 16, 2016, against Lesley University (122–52).

Trailblazing Women

Just across Higgins Court, Coach Angela Santa Fe (affectionately known as “Coach A”) leads the student-athletes on the women’s basketball team. The team is truly a force to be reckoned with. In February, the women clinched their fifth straight championship title in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC). Explosive offense from Shannon Hayes ’18 and Brittany Stone ’18, as well as several impressive assists by Amanda Hawkesworth ’17, powered the Pride to a 92–49 win over number two seed Elms College. Still, their coach would argue that the victory had its roots in the classroom.

When Santa Fe first stepped into the Regis basketball program in 2013, her team had a cumulative GPA of 2.7. She now coaches a team with a cumulative GPA on the cusp of 3.4. This is no small feat, especially considering that the players balance their academics with eight hours of practice and two to three games each week.

“Our players have really bought into our focus on academics and post-graduation careers,” Santa Fe says. “I believe that in order to perform your best on the basketball court, you need to put in the effort to be your best at everything else that is important in life.”

Santa Fe keeps a watchful eye on the academic success of her team. She holds individual academic meetings several times each season; she monitors attendance; she asks to see semester grades as soon as they are published.

“Coach A holds us to a high standard,” explains Hayes, a guard from Billerica, Massachusetts.

The women on the basketball team respond well to this standard because Santa Fe knows how to balance rigidity and encouragement. “Coach A is your biggest fan and your biggest critic all at the same time,” says Stone, who has earned recent honors as a 1,000-point scorer and also the NECC Tournament Most Valuable Player.

Jessica Page '10 Ryan Chambers '14

Hall of Fame

Janaya Bradley ’15
Caitlin Connolly ’05
Stephanie Crawford ’12
Helen Dinan ’03
Samantha Dutily ’97
Jen Erickson ’95
Lynne Erickson ’97
Amanda Hawkesworth ’17
Kim Mariotti ’09
Emilee Marro ’15
Jessica Page ’10*
Claire Ramonas ’14
Julie Rando ’94
Jen Romano ’95
Laura Sears ’09
Brittany Stone ’18
Jen Thompson ’00
Phil Alibrandi ’11
Ryan Chambers ’14*
Sam Jean-Gilles ’17
Derrick Neal ’11

*Page and Chambers (pictured above) are the current career-scoring leaders at Regis.

Special Assists

In a pre-practice ritual known as “Something Good,” Santa Fe calls the players to a huddle and encourages them to share positive moments from their day. Good grades are the most frequent contribution.

“When someone shares a good grade, the entire team cheers for her and Coach A gives her a high-five,” says Hayes. “The extra support from Coach A and the team makes us feel really good. Our course load at Regis is challenging, but when you know that other people are happy about your success, it just encourages you to keep going.”

Even in the off-season when the team does not practice, the players often text Santa Fe when they receive positive paper grades or test scores. “I love it when that happens,” she says. “They are remarkable young women.”

Just as Hager and Santa Fe serve as inspiring mentors, the players on both Regis basketball teams have taken on mentorship roles in the community. Throughout the year, players organize fundraisers for the American Cancer Society and work with children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and at the Mission Grammar School in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Jessica Page ’10—who currently holds the women’s record of career-scoring leader—remembers mentoring young female athletes as one of the most fulfilling experiences of her Regis career. “Through basketball, we were able to instill confidence in the young girls. I loved sharing my own story with them. I let them know that, like me, they will fail in life. But how they respond to the failure will make a difference.”

One of the most successful basketball service projects involves participation in Coaches vs. Cancer, a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Men’s career-scoring leader Ryan Chambers ’14, who Hager remembers as “the hardest working guy in the gym,” enjoyed combining the physical rewards of basketball with the emotional rewards of developing empathy and reaching out to the community.

“As part of Coaches vs. Cancer, we ran a 5K and played a game where all proceeds were donated to charity,” Chambers recalls. “This was important because it brought a little perspective to all of our lives.”

Additionally, the basketball program hosts a nine-team Special Olympics basketball tournament at Higgins Court every winter. Members of both the women’s and men’s teams help to run the scoreboard, referee games, and cheer on the athletes.

“When we did the Special Olympics, I really felt that I was part of something larger than a college basketball team,” says Hayes. “The players there knew nothing about us and we knew nothing about them, but our love for the game connected us to each other.”

From writing scouting reports to hosting the Special Olympics, the Pride players and coaches have become a powerful support system for each other and for the community. Their talents to be “part of something larger” truly reach beyond a college basketball team.

Coach Angela Santa Fe Coach Nate Hager


with the coaches

Angela Santa Fe + Nate Hager

Do you have any pre-game superstitions? Santa Fe: I am not superstitious, but I do clean and organize everything possible in the office before each game. Hager: I will keep certain ties or suits going during win streaks.

What is your favorite saying that you use to motivate players? Santa Fe: “Control the controllables.” Hager: “Get better every day.”

When is the most challenging point of a basketball game for you? Santa Fe: The most challenging part for me is my communication with the players in our post-game. I know this dictates how we will begin our next practice and our next game. Hager: The warm-ups. At that time, I can usually tell whether or not our players are focused.

Who is your favorite professional basketball player or team? Santa Fe: Diana Taurasi [Phoenix Mercury]. Hager: Boston Celtics—I’m loving Jaylen Brown right now!

Where is your favorite place to play basketball? Santa Fe: I love going back to my alumni game and playing at my alma mater, the University of Southern Maine. There is a strong nostalgic feeling I get when I enter that gym that I know will never fade. As far as coaching, in my four years we have lost five games at home, so I would say my favorite is definitely a home game at Higgins Court! Hager: Miller Sibley Courts in Franklin, Pennsylvania.

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