The men’s basketball team was already 10 games into the season before freshman Michael Sheng joined its roster. Another freshman, Andy Kim, started playing for the men’s volleyball team after missing its five-week preseason. Though they are playing different sports, these two athletes are both facing similar challenges as latecomers. But their teammates and coaches say they are adjusting well.
Sheng, a visual and media arts major, was recruited normally by the basketball program but was accepted for the spring semester. Kim, also a visual and media arts major, decided to try out for volleyball after hearing that the team needed a few more players.
“Right now we have such a small roster size,” said Ben Read, the men’s volleyball head coach. “Any extra bodies we get are going to go ahead and help us be a little bit more competitive in practice, and hopefully down the road add a little depth competing throughout the season.”
Sheng and Kim agreed that the hardest adjustments to college athletics are in the game plans and speed of play.
“I think the [biggest difference] is the strategy level, and how in-depth the strategy is each game.” said Sheng, a guard. “In high school, you kind of wing it, and usually the team with the better players wins.”
Sheng said he’s been playing basketball for as long as he can remember. Kim, however, said he played volleyball throughout middle school and high school until a knee and ankle injury stopped him his sophomore year. He hadn’t played in two years.
“Since I missed the preseason, right now I’m still catching up in terms of rotations and other volleyball plays,” said Kim. “I haven’t been playing much, but as soon as I can get my rotations down, I want to start playing more and more.”
Kim has seen action in two of the three Lions’ matches so far this season. Sheng has played in five games since joining the basketball team, including shooting a 3-pointer in his first game on Jan. 7 against Babson.
Men’s basketball coach Bill Curley said he’s already seen Sheng improve over the past month.
“He’s definitely getting more comfortable,” said Curley. “He’s realizing if he wants to play he has to get a little bit tougher, a little bit meaner. That’ll come. I know he’s got the skills and the ability. It’s just so hard to come into a new situation with all the plays.”
Besides missing valuable playing time, both players joined teams that had already spent time bonding on and off the court.
“It’s hard inserting yourself on a team in the middle of the season,” said Sheng. “Everyone’s used to each other.”
To help in his transition, Sheng said he turned to junior guard Jay Kleinbart, a former high school teammate.
“He’s an old friend; it’s nice to see a familiar face,” said Sheng. “He’s been helping me through, getting me around to classes and introducing me to everyone.”
Though Kim doesn’t have a former classmate on the volleyball team, he did say his new teammates have been supportive.
“During practices, when I have questions or when I’m confused, they’ll always come up to me and help,” said Kim.
Stig Regan, a freshman on the volleyball team, said Kim has already gotten used to the team.
“Just in the last week,” said Regan, a visual and media arts major. “I’ve seen Andy come a long way just in hitting off our setter Brendan [McGonigle].”
Read said he is impressed with how Kim has found his place on the team.
“He seems like he fits in well,” said Read. “[He has a] great personality, and he works hard in practice. He has similar academic interests as the rest of the team.”
Kim said he only has one goal for the season.
“[I want to] become better,” he said, “and become a part of the team and help it as much as I can.”