Sports

St. Joe’s Brooklyn Has a Court of Its Own

St. Joseph’s College gym
St. Joseph’s College Athletic Director Frank Carbone addresses the crowd Dec. 18 at the dedication ceremony for the new Hill Center and the court named in his honor. (Photo by St. Joseph’s College/Robert Napolitano)

In many cases, the phrase “Good things come to those who wait” could not be more accurate.

Tell that to the good people of St. Joseph’s College, Clinton Hill, and they would undoubtedly agree when it comes to the completion of the school’s brand new state-of-the-art multipurpose gymnasium.

Located on Vanderbilt Avenue between Willoughby Street and DeKalb Avenue, the 40,000-square- foot Hill Center – named after the college’s recently retired sixth president Sister Elizabeth Hill, C.S.J. – is now open to the campus community.

Construction of the three-story facility began in May, 2012 with an anticipated opening date sometime early in 2014. After months of patiently waiting, St. Joe’s dedicated the center on Dec. 18 in between a double-header of Lady Bears and Bears basketball games.

“I can remember the first plans I saw literally were over 10 years ago, so ultimately at the end of the day, patience truly did pay off because you can see from the results here it’s really truly amazing,” said Frank Carbone, athletic director and head women’s basketball coach at St. Joseph’s.

The gymnasium features a 290-seat NCAA regulation-size basketball and volleyball court as well as a trainer’s room, dance studio, locker rooms, an outdoor terrace and the athletic department offices overlooking the court. The gym’s fitness center includes all the latest workout equipment donated by the school’s alumni.

“Our goal here was to do something unique but yet something really classy that the student-athletes could be very proud of,” Carbone said. “And you have to see their reaction, they are thrilled. Sometimes I think they would even sleep here if they had the chance.”

Carbone – often referred to as “Papa Bear” by St. Joe’s students – has been involved with the college’s athletic program for the past 18 years, so to recognize his impact, the school community named the court in his honor.
“It really is humbling,” said Carbone, who is also the Lady Bears head softball coach. “It was really actually a surprise. If I had known about it in advance, I probably would have said no, but having been recognized really is an honor.”

Home-Court Advantage

For the past 60 years, the Bears and Lady Bears have rented facilities anywhere they could throughout Brooklyn and Queens to serve as their home court, with most recent venues including Bishop Loughlin M.H.S. and Brooklyn Technical H.S., both nearby in Fort Greene.

“To be here … to have our own home court, it just raises the morale of the whole student body,” said Anna Carbone, president of the St. Joseph’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Before the new gym opened, the basketball and volleyball teams practiced on campus in a crammed court in the basement of Tuohy Hall, where long shots or volleys would often hit the ceiling – not exactly ideal for a competitive NCAA Division III program.

“For my past two years, we worked very hard and were getting promised a spectacular building,” said Brittany Cervino, senior point guard on the Lady Bears basketball team. “And we got it, so it was amazing walking in here.”

Finally having a home-court advantage is also a highlight of the new building.

“We’ve never had fans like this before and now we’re going to have this gym packed; it’s going to be amazing,” said Samantha Retas, senior shooting guard on the Lady Bears basketball team.

“I’m sad that it’s my senior year and that I’m not going to be able to have it. I wish I could start over.”

More so than just the athletic teams, the new gymnasium is bound to benefit the entire campus community and will strengthen the college’s already booming school spirit.

“It’s not just for the 140 student-St. Joseph’s College Athletic Director Frank Carbone addresses the crowd Dec. 18 at the dedication ceremony for the new Hill Center and the court named in his honor.
athletes that we have,” Coach Carbone said. “It’s for the entire 1,500 population … full-time and part-time students, adult students. Anybody can come in here and use it.

“We’re open 12 hours a day, and we really encourage everybody to just come in and share what we have. That’s what we’re all about.”

Although the Hill Center’s opening may have taken a little longer than expected, the finished product has been well worth the wait.

Now it’s up the Bears and Lady Bears to complete the building’s décor by hoisting a few new championship banners.

Winning a championship is a season-long journey, and from seeing how the multipurpose gradually evolved into a masterpiece, St. Joseph’s College Brooklyn is well aware that “Good things come to those who wait.”

Contact Jim Mancari via email at jmmanc@gmail.com.

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