VALPARAISO | The green jacket has been retired since the start of the school year, but that doesn’t mean the symbol has lost relevance for the Valparaiso men’s basketball team.
The jacket, which once belonged to Tommy Kurth’s grandfather, bounced from player to player as a type of traveling trophy. The jacket could change hands after a round of golf, after a lengthy video game marathon or after any impromptu competition the players could dream up.
With their focus on the season, the jacket is framed on the wall of Ryan Broekhoff and Will Bogan’s apartment, waiting to change hands in the spring.
“It’s just a symbol of how close we are off the floor,” Bogan said. “We’re all very close on this team and we spend a lot of time with each other away from basketball.”
As the Crusaders prepare to hit the halfway mark of Horizon League play with a road contest against Youngstown St. tonight, Valparaiso is off to its best start in Division 1 history with a 16-5 record. Given the amount of adversity the Crusaders have faced, such as a 22-point deficit at Detroit, team chemistry has definitely helped guide the senior-laden squad to several victories.
“A couple weeks into school last year I realized maybe it wasn’t all a (recruiting) show,” Bobby Capobianco said, “the way everyone held each other responsible, even in an offseason open gym.”
Mixing a group of transfers and returning players could’ve been a massive challenge for first-year coach Bryce Drew last year. The team clicked immediately.
“The team chemistry was part of the draw,” Bogan said. “I won’t say I wasn’t friends with the guys (from Ole Miss) or that I didn’t like them, but it was nothing like it is here."