Rise, Thrive, Give Back

A stellar season for the men’s basketball team

By LYDIA LUM, USF NEWS Posted Wed, 02/13/2019 - 13:00

On Feb. 9, Carol Herbstman ’80 attended her first Dons men’s basketball home game since 2011, cheering the squad to a 78-72 victory over conference rival Santa Clara. She was moved to brave the rain because of the Dons’ 17–6 record entering the weekend. 

The wins have fueled an average attendance jump of about 400 fans per game, many who come decked out in green and gold. The team might reach its first March Madness tournament since 1998. 

But what sports fans don’t always see is how committed the Dons are not only to the game, but to the community, to academics, and to USF’s mission of serving others. 

Community favorites

Before the season opener every fall, the Dons conduct a series of 90-minute weekend clinics for kids in the Bay Area E-Hoops program. Players teach youths ages 5 to 13 — many who have autism, Tourette Syndrome, and other sensory-processing disorders — basic ball handling skills, like passing and shooting.

“It’s great to see joy on their faces,” says team co-captain Nate Renfro ’19. “Spending time with these kids really puts life into perspective.”

Herbstman, who watched the Dons notch their 18th victory, is proud to cheer for a team that makes service a priority. 

“Whenever there’s more off-the-court engagement than on-the-court, that’s a good thing, and it’s the way it should be,” she says. 

Academic stars

The Dons aren’t slackers in school either. The team boasts an average 3.39 GPA, and last fall, several players earned 4.0s. 

The Dons also take time to acknowledge their USF community by hosting post-game autograph sessions. After the Feb. 9 game, players signed trading cards for the elementary and middle school kids who are a growing part of the Dons fan base.

“We have a very good culture here,” says Renfro. “No one has to pound into our guys that we ought to appreciate the fan support, especially from kids.” 

And it doesn’t hurt that “they treat us like we’re NBA All-Stars,” Renfro adds.

Cathy Partmann-Ravano ’68 calls the players’ attitudes “awesome.” 

A season ticket holder for 30-plus years, Partmann-Ravano is excited that fans have packed the gym for several months — much like they did when she was an undergraduate. Back then, the country was reeling from the Vietnam War and race riots.

“There was so much going on,” says Partmann-Ravano, one of nine USF alumni in her family.  “What brought us together was basketball. That was our main activity.”

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