ATHLETE PROFILE: Greg Gonzalez
With just one regular-season game left, graduate student Greg Gonzalez has seen a lot of action during his time in Skibo Gymnasium. After red-shirting due to an injury last season, Gonzalez has returned to the court, acquiring UAA honors and double-double statistics in rebounding and scoring. As co-captain, Gonzalez reflected on life at Carnegie Mellon both on and off the hardwood.
The Tartan: As your final basketball season winds down, what are you going to miss the most about being a part of the team?
Gonzalez: The game has been good to me and I’ve loved playing basketball, but the guys I have played with while I am here are going to be my best and closest friends for the rest of my life.
T: What are you interested in pursuing after the school year ends?
G: I’ve got my whole life to work, so I am in no rush to start throwing money into a 401(k). I am going to try and keep playing basketball in Europe. Since basketball spans both semesters, I never got to take a semester abroad, and I always thought that would be pretty cool. Plus, I would get to play basketball and get money, even if it’s not much. I would be getting paid to play a game — not a bad gig.
T: Do you have a favorite event that happens at Carnegie Mellon?
G: No questions asked, Carnival. The school is a completely different place and looks and feels like the brochures that get sent home. There’s no work, the sun is always out, people are out playing bocci or throwing the football. It’s a great time to just hang out and relax before finals.
T: How will basketball be a part of your life in the future?
G: Basketball can teach you so much about people and about yourself. Eventually, I will get a real-person job and have to grow up, but as soon as I put away enough money, I would love to coach middle school basketball and teach math.
Kids, when they are that young, are so impressionable, and a good coach’s advice can stay with them through their whole life. I’m not a crazy Xs and Os guy ... I enjoy coaching the basics. The smile on a kid who finally hits a jump shot with the right form or a layup jumping off the correct foot is an awesome thing to watch.
T: Did observing the team last year give you any new perspectives on playing this season?
G: Absolutely! Watching last season was tough and made me feel so useless, but I learned patience and self-confidence to add to my game. I also think I gained a lot of the players’ respect by being a medium between the players and the coaches.
Since I couldn’t go out there and put the ball in the hoop, I tried to help as much during practice through playing, and as much during the games through advice.
T: What advice would you leave with the team for seasons to come?
G: Enjoy every moment of it. It goes by quickly and don’t ever take it for granted. When it’s all over, we won’t remember who scored the most points this game....
But you’ll remember Wing Night, betting on bags coming off the carousel, water boxes, hilarious rounds of golf at Schenley, Guitar Hero tournaments, Warcraft battles.... Each guy on the team is worth way more than his stats show.
T: Do you have a memorable experience involving basketball from when you were growing up?
G: My senior year of high school we played the number-two team in the state, at their place, and got rocked.... We got an opportunity to play them again at our place for the last game...
We met up on my senior night to play for the district championship. We went to overtime and they missed a three-pointer to win it. When the buzzer sounded, the packed student section rushed the court and hoisted up some of the players. It was probably my best basketball memory before I came to college.
T: Do you feel that you have had special opportunities throughout your college career by being a student athlete?
G: The UAA is so great in that we travel first class. We stay in nice hotels, fly to conference games, and get to eat well. I had traveled to most of the cities before I came to college, but the trips we have had around each UAA city has been a great advantage to being a student athlete. Also, I met a lot of people through athletics.
T: Has playing basketball in college changed the way you view the game?
G: Not really.... The best part about Division III athletes is the love of the game. None of us are here on athletic scholarships, none of us sign autographs for fans after games, you can’t buy our jerseys in the bookstore — but we still play.
We still show up for 7 a.m. practices, we still show up to lift when other kids are out goofing around. When people are putting off writing a paper, we’re getting up a few extra shots, and when everyone goes home for a month Christmas break, we take off for seven days and come back to two-a-days and games in an empty gym.
There are kids here who have the best work ethics I’ve ever seen and don’t get a dime for it or even the respect that they deserve for working so hard. That’s the most impressive thing about Division III athletes.
T: What are your thoughts about your last home game?
G: The kids who have no ties to the team except that they are Carnegie Mellon students — those are my favorite fans. We have an opportunity to make postseason play so there is no telling when our last home game will be, but there’s a chance that Saturday against Rochester might be the last time Geoff and I play in Skibo for real. It would be great if we could pack the house.