Four years ago the Marian University basketball team went four-and-21. This season they're 15-and-four and favorites to represent their conference in the Division III NCAA tournament. The five members of their senior class have seen a renaissance of the Sabres program. One member of that class in particular exemplifies how they’ve scrapped their way back to the top.
Sam Koslowski is just 48 points from reaching the one-thousand point mark, a benchmark for individual excellence in college basketball. Koslowski said reaching the mark will be a big accomplishment but not his biggest on the court. "The thousand point thing for me is an unbelievable thing to do but it's unbelievable for me to be out here playing still," Koslowski said.
Unbelievable because late in his senior season at St. Mary Central, Koslowski was getting attention from division two school and averaging 24 points per game, when he tore his ACL. Suddenly his basketball future was in doubt.
"I was really contemplating if I wanted to continue playing, would it be worth it", Koslowski said of the grueling rehab and physical therapy required to play competitively again.
But following his surgery Koslowski received a note that changed the course of his athletic career. Sabres head coach Mark Boyle sent him a note that said,
“Sam I know your surgery is coming up, man things happen fast don't they. Getting it taken care of immediately is a good thing. Hang tough, you'll come back better than ever and it signed Coach Boyle and it just says Sabre basketball on it. To me it was just an unbelievable thing. I had never expected to get a letter from any coach saying to get better.”
Koslowski said the note brightened his day and made him really want to be a part of the Marian program. "It was really cold to see he didn't just care about my ability. He cared about me as a person."
When asked about writing the letter, Mark Boyle said it was important to reinforce his interest in Koslowski and let him know that he was more than just a basketball player. "I recruited him and just because he was hurt I got to know him,” Boyle said. “He's still the same person that's part of basketball. It turned out very nicely that he can put the ball in the hole but that's not the entire reason we're doing it."
Four years later Koslowski still has the note pinned above his bed for inspiration. Boyle knew he was getting the kind of player who thinks about hoops from morning until he goes to bed. "He's a competitor. That's the biggest thing with Sam. When the games on the line he doesn't like to lose. I saw that right away from him," Boyle said.
Koslowski went on to say he’s just part of a great group of players. Fellow seniors Cody Veleke and Jeff Harris have already reached the one-thousand point mark this season but the number in the win column is all that really matters. "All I and everyone on this team really cares about is winning," Koslowski said.
If Marian keeps winning, this team could deliver the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2001 and just the second in school history.