February 4

Steve Solloway: Nich Jobin does job with dignity at Saint Joseph’s

The former Westbrook High star doesn’t deviate from his path.

STANDISH – Nich Jobin jumped, elevating his muscled 6-foot-6 body above the rim and slamming the ball through the basket. The usually stoic Saint Joseph’s senior yelled and the sound of triumph was unmistakable. This game was over.

Saint Joseph’s won Saturday’s basketball game and Albertus Magnus College of New Haven, Conn., lost for the first time after 11 wins in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference and only the second time in 19 games overall. The final score was 74-55 and other than the first minute or two, it was never close.

On the court or sitting on the sideline, Jobin’s teammates let the slam dunk and the yell echo through their souls and their bones. Their world is the basketball court at the small Alfond Center playing in front of a few hundred fans on a small college campus in a small Maine town. Their world is not the bigness of Arizona or Syracuse or Wichita State and the riches paid by television networks and sponsors and boosters.

Jobin and his pals, who have lost only two conference games, knew they would be tested Saturday against a very good opponent. That’s universal. What happens on the court is what matters most, especially to the high school star who grew up in Westbrook with the same dreams of playing college basketball as those who went on to the NCAA Division I big-time basketball factories.

Jobin scored 18 points Saturday, right at his season average. A quiet 18 points until his last basket. Senior guard Matt Medeiros (24 points) and junior forward Zach Blodgett (17) lit the fireworks with their 3-point shooting. They were 8 for 12 in 3-pointers in the first half when Saint Joseph’s took a 44-22 halftime lead.

Jobin is the steadying presence underneath. He was the teenager who opted for Saint Joseph’s and Division III where scholarships are awarded based on financial need, not athletic prowess. Now he’s the 21-year-old man who can appreciate perspective.

“Why did I choose Saint Joseph’s? Coach (Rob) Sanicola was one of the only coaches who didn’t guarantee me playing time,” said Jobin. “He was honest with me. He’s always been honest. I had to earn my time.”

Jobin didn’t start one game in his freshman season, which raised eyebrows away from Saint Joseph’s. He got eight starts in his sophomore year.

Jobin scored his 1,000th career point on Jan. 23 against GNAC rival Lasell. Most of those points have come in the last two seasons. Jobin doesn’t see his first two seasons as unproductive. They set him up for the last two.

“Nich trusted me and he trusted the process,” said Sanicola. “Every guy wants to play more. We never promised Nich anything.

“He was a star in high school. He was the kind of kid who floated around the perimeter, stretched the defense and took his shots there. That’s kind of the sexy thing with big guys. We needed him to be an anchor in the pivot, to establish himself underneath. He went into the weight room and made himself stronger. He worked harder and made himself a better player.”

His character needed no extra work. Sanicola got a mature, nearly finished person.

Jobin’s class included Medeiros, from Westport, Mass., James Philbrook from Auburn and Edward Little High and Clark Noonan from Bangor. Jobin, Philbrook and Noonan as freshmen were roommates in a dorm room that was really meant to be a double.

“We were three big guys,” said Jobin. “We were always getting in each other’s way. We really got to know each other.”

Noonan was killed in a car accident after their sophomore season. On a campus that emphasizes relationships, Noonan’s death left behind hurt.

“We still get out the old photos and laugh and tell stories,” said Jobin. “We don’t talk about him every day, but he’s constantly with us. He’s in our thoughts.”

Still, Jobin is aware that the freshmen and sophomores who make up more than half the team didn’t have the chance to know Noonan.

On the night Jobin scored his 1,000th point, he wasn’t counting. He needed 29 points and no one expected him to reach the milestone in that game. “I really had no idea how many I needed or how much I was scoring. It was just a good game.”

It was also Noonan’s birthday.

Saturday, Jobin walked out of the postgame team meeting. In beating Albertus Magnus, they learned more about themselves. “Any one of us could have had a big game. We supported each other.”

Which is why his slam dunk wasn’t his statement. It was their statement: This game is over.

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

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