Of the four seniors on the men’s basketball team this past year, only two of them were on the team to begin their careers. Kishan Patel and Will Derr began their time as Knights with a 9-16 overall record, including a tough 4-12 record in the MAC Commonwealth their freshman season.
During their sophomore campaign in the 2017-18 season, transfer Steve Pendleton joined the squad from in-conference rival Alvernia, helping the Knights improve to 14-14 overall and 8-8 in the Commonwealth, advancing them to the semifinals of the MAC Commonwealth Championships, where they lost to first-seeded Albright. They entered the ECAC Division III Tournament, and were quickly knocked out by top-seeded Juniata.
In the 2018-2019 season, the Knights had an all-around solid lineup. From starters to those off the bench, the entire squad was a threat on both sides of the ball. Darren James rejoined the squad as a junior after playing his freshman year in the 2015-2016 season, and the four juniors helped propel the Scarlet and Grey to an incredible 23-6 overall record, including a 14-2 MAC Commonwealth record. Despite suffering their two conference losses to Hood and Widener to end the regular season, they came out in the tournament and defeated Albright 77-73 in the semifinals to earn hosting rights in the championship against Widener. The Knights blew out the Pride in an emphatic 92-56 win, marking their first MAC Commonwealth Championship in program history. They traveled to Marietta, Ohio for the first round of the NCAA Division III Championships, earning the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament win over New Jersey City University, 80-60. The incredible season came to an end with a loss against No. 22 Marietta, 76-88 in the second round.
During the summer before their senior season, the Knights saw a head coaching change. Former Head Coach Justin Scott, who had led them to a title the previous season, was headed to Division I St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Adam Van Zelst was tabbed as the program’s new head coach, and had spent time at the Division II level with Millersville University, as well as with MAC Commonwealth rival Albright, where he was a four-year member of the basketball team and helped the Lions win the 2010 MAC Commonwealth Championship his senior year. Coach Van Zelst was also awarded the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Under Armour 30-Under-30 Award, which recognizes emerging college coaches across the country.
Even with new leadership, the program had the same goal – to win another MAC Commonwealth Championship and get back to the NCAA Tournament. The Knights began their season by winning their home tournament, the Arcadia Tip-Off Tournament, with wins over Rutgers-Camden and Salisbury. They were on a four-game win streak going in to the Battle of 309, a traditional rivalry game between Arcadia and Gwynedd Mercy. They ended up losing the Battle of 309, as well as the following two games, one of them being a 72-89 loss against No. 1 Swarthmore.
After a back and forth conference season, the Knights earned their MAC Commonwealth Tournament berth and traveled to Albright, where they defeated the Lions 93-89 to head back to their second MAC Commonwealth Championship in as many years. They hosted Lycoming for the championship game, losing a heartbreaker to the Warriors, 64-68.
When asked about what he’s going to miss most about his seniors, Coach Van Zelst said, “The interactions. The personal relationships you develop with them over time. The conversations in the office about basketball, about life, and about nothing.”
He addressed the seniors and said, “Thank you for making my transition into the Arcadia Athletics community easier. I am so proud of all you’ve accomplished and know you’ll all be successful in life, whatever path you may choose. I’ll always be grateful and I’ll always be there for you.”
Senior Kishan Patel said, “Arcadia Athletics has meant family to me for the last four years. Being able to play my favorite sport in such an open, loving, supportive place has made my experience so much more memorable. The whole athletics department is extremely supportive of one another, creating a family atmosphere. During 7am workouts, everyone is pushing each other and competing against each other, no matter what team you’re on. Arcadia Athletics has made my collegiate experience that much more memorable.”
“Arcadia Basketball is about two things,” said Patel. “Family and heart. We are one big family who support and push each other to be the best. We play our hearts out for each other every second, every time we step on the court.”
Over his four years in the Scarlet and Grey, Patel appeared in 84 games with 13 starts. He shot 38.8% from the field, 34% from behind the arc, and 84.6% from the charity stripe. He ended his career with 241 points, 150 rebounds, 58 assists, 42 steals, and 10 blocks. The Psychology/Pre-Physical Therapy major was also named to the MAC Honor Roll his junior season.
“The biggest lesson I learned over the last four years is accountability,” said Patel. “Coming from high school to college is a huge transition. In high school, you have teachers, parents, staff, and everybody right next to you, side by side, helping you and carrying you along in your process. Once I got to college, I had to figure out how to do everything on my own.”
“I had to start holding myself accountable. If I wanted to eat, I had to get a job and supply food for myself. I didn’t have my mom to just cook for me. Anything and everything I wanted and did, all were on the basis of holding myself accountable.”
“I was accountable for the results I got on everything such as tests, grades, and especially performances in practices and games. I had to hold myself accountable by pushing myself to work my hardest in order to get the results I wanted.”
Patel absolutely loved the atmosphere Arcadia Athletics provides.
“The Arcadia Athletics atmosphere is unique because it’s literally one big house with one huge family! The Kuch Center is literally home to all athletes, and you’ll see athletes in there all day long, spending most of their time in that building. I spent at least six hours a day in the off season in the gym, and then close to eight hours a day there during the season. There were times I would actually nap on the couches outside the gym.”
“Along with it being a huge home, the atmosphere is that of one huge family, in the sense that everyone knows everyone. We’re always supporting each other by attending games, wishing others good luck, or saying ‘good game yesterday’ to those that had a game, no matter how they played or what the outcome was. Nobody cared because it made people happy to hear that so many people care.”
“The atmosphere during the championship games we hosted for men’s basketball was a feeling I’ve never felt before. Playing in front of all my friends and fellow athletes, and winning and storming the court was absolutely heartwarming. Even losing this past year in the last minute of the game – seeing some of my friends after the game who weren’t even on the team cry because we lost was so special to me. It shows that the Arcadia Athletics community genuinely cares, supports, and treats each other like family.”
To his teammates and coaches, Patel says, “Thank you and I love you guys. You absolutely made my years at Arcadia fun. To the coaches, thank you for dealing with me, and thank you for always believing in me. I love you guys too, and you helped me develop into the man I am today.”
In reflecting on the legacy he wants to leave behind, Patel said, “I hope to have left a legacy of a champion behind. While a part of Arcadia Men’s Basketball, we hosted two conference championship games, and won one. We also made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.”
“I also hope to have left the legacy of hard work behind. I hope to have inspired not only others in my program, but people in the Arcadia Athletics community as a whole to work harder. I truly worked as hard as I could by putting in countless hours in the gym, and many people saw. I hope I inspired some to work harder.”
Even though they were finished with their season, Patel still felt the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s unfortunately ruined the last couple of times I would have potentially gotten to compete against my brothers. Even though our season had ended before everything started getting canceled, our team has a culture of playing pickup every day. That’s one of the most cherished and fun things in this program, and I unfortunately got that taken away.”
Even if he could step on the court one more time, the North Brunswick, New Jersey native said he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I mean I’d want to win another championship as would anyone, but honestly, I wouldn’t change anything. I had the time of my life playing, and wouldn’t change a thing about the experience I had.”
Fellow senior Will Derr said, “Arcadia Athletics has been my family. I consider all my teammates in my four years here to be my best friends and my brothers.”
Derr said that the camaraderie and the mutual goal of winning is what makes the atmosphere around Arcadia Athletics unique.
The Willow Grove, Pennsylvania native played in 108 games with 24 starts over the course of his career. He amassed 418 rebounds, 339 points, 51 blocks, and 31 steals. Derr recorded a shooting percentage of 46.1% from the field and 56.1% from the free throw line. An International Business major, he was named to the MAC Honor Roll his sophomore and junior seasons, as well as the ECAC President’s Honor Roll his sophomore year.
“Thank you for being a group of people I know I can always rely on to have my back, and to push me to be the best I can be.”
To his coaches, Derr said, “Thank you for the countless hours you dedicated to our team and for teaching us to be great players, but even better people.”
To the program, he says, “Continue to be a winning program. Be selfless in everything you do, and respect one another as a family would.”
Darren James had played a year at Arcadia in the 2015-2016 season and returned during the roster in the 2018-2019 season as a junior. During his time in the Scarlet and Grey, he appeared in 29 games with two starts. He tallied 33 rebounds, 21 points, eight blocks and three steals.
“Arcadia Athletics has meant a lot to me,” said guard Steve Pendleton. “Coming from a different university in the same conference and being a part of a family-oriented program made me appreciate everything I was taught, on and off the court.”
“I think all the effort that the staff, coaches, and trainers put into the athletes is unique. Everyone is so passionate about bettering the program and bettering students on and off the court. They’re dedicated to making sure we get the best possible experience as student-athletes at Arcadia.”
“Being able to represent not only the basketball team, but the University, was something I took pride in,” said Pendleton.
During his time in the Scarlet and Grey, Pendleton played in 81 games with 29 starts. He averaged 41.6% from the field, 32.4% from behind the arc, and 69.6% from the free throw line. The guard finished his career at Arcadia with 702 points, 251 rebounds, 75 steals, and 16 blocks.
Not only was Pendleton an impact player on the court, but he was recognized academically as well. In his first year with the Knights, the Sport Management major was named to the ECAC President’s Honor Roll and the MAC Honor Roll, and his junior year, he was named to the MAC Honor Roll.
“The biggest lesson I learned at Arcadia is S.C.A.R., which stands for sacrifice, commitment, accountability, and respect. This slogan is something that’s going to stick with me for life. This is something you can use not only on the court, but it’s a mindset you can use in everyday life,” said Pendleton.
Addressing his teammates and coaches, Pendleton said, “I honestly wouldn’t want to play alongside any other players in the conference besides my brothers. I will never forget the memories that we made and all of the hard work we put in. Thank you for challenging my and pushing me to be the best version of myself every day, both on and off the court. I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of the lessons, messages, and guidance the coaches gave for my teammates and me.”
When asked about what he wanted to leave behind as his legacy, he said, “I just hope to have left a positive impact on the program by leading by example both on and off the court. In addition, showing everyone how much hard work I put in and making certain sacrifices to be the best version that I could be.”
To the program, Pendleton says, “Continue to work hard every day and cherish every moment of being able to represent the program. Keep the program going upward both on and off the court while you can, so that the next group of Knights can take off where you left it and enjoy their experience.”
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on my outlook not only on my sport, but all of sports. I never really thought they could be taken away for as long as they have. It reminds me to cherish every moment and not take things for granted, because you never know when they’re going to be taken away. It also makes me miss putting on that jersey and competing with my teammates every day.”
When asked what makes Arcadia a family, Pendleton had one word: “Togetherness.”