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Panthers and Tigers

Before tonight’s Williams game, we asked Peter Lindholm ‘17.5 to share his Middlebury basketball story. Game preview to follow. 

The first Middlebury basketball game I ever went to, I only saw five minutes of action.  I was a bookish 8 year old, in fact, maybe the most obviously unathletic 8 year old in the state.  Harry Potter book in hand, I had been dragged to the game by my dad, an alumni and huge fan.  Looking back, I can see how much he wanted me to share in his passion for the team, but I just wasn’t there yet.  I followed his motions in preparing for the game, standing for the national anthem, clapping during the starting lineups, clapping with more passion when the loud bearded guy announcing the lineups raised his voice.  Then the game started, and I was finally able to read Harry Potter uninterrupted.  Five minutes passed, and Harry was just about to come face to face with the infamous Sirius Black, when the timeout buzzer sounded.  The sound jolted me out of my reverie like a Stunning Spell, and reverberated in my head, making further focus difficult.  Fed up, I took my book and stormed off to Lawson Lounge, favoring the peace and quiet and leaving the game to continue without me.

My attitude about Middlebury basketball did eventually change, but not right away.  I went to several more games, enough to get me through the third, fourth and fifth Harry Potter books.  My dad tried several times to get me interested in the game, but, as tends to be the case, it was my mom who finally got my head in the game.  She basically marched me at gunpoint to sign up for intramural basketball in middle school, which doubled as the tryouts for the travel team.  Once I was playing the game, I fell in love immediately.  Not because of any great skill, trust me.  Average would still be a great compliment to my skills on the court.  No, I fell in love with basketball’s flow.  Basketball is a very liquid game, one play flows into the next seamlessly, and the movement is constant.  When it is played well, it seems like each player is tied to each other with a rope, and depends on their teammates to move the unit.  I finally began to understand what my dad saw at Middlebury games.

To my complete shock, I made the travel team out of those intramurals, and there began my relationship with Middlebury basketball, both high school and college.  On the travel team, I met my teammates, who remain to this day my best friends.  We were able to keep that core group together as we advanced through the Middlebury’s basketball ranks, getting separated briefly in the JV and Varsity schism, but reunited by my junior year.  We were able to grow together, both as players and as people, and that was the main reason for our success as a team.

Another huge contributor to our basketball learning was Middlebury College basketball.  I don’t know what I did to deserve such a great formative basketball experience, but to have Middlebury College become a dominant team in Division Three as soon as I became interested in basketball was nothing short of a blessing.  From eighth grade until Christmas Break of this year, my teammates and I went to the vast majority of home games at Pepin Gym, soaking up all we could.  And that was quite a bit.  We’d watch how those Panther teams seemed to be all one player at times, each cut pulling the string for another player to fill his spot.  They played hard, together, and with a passion that was visible to even our immature basketball minds.  We were also big fans of Andrew Locke swatting balls into the fifth row.   At halftime we’d play rigorous games of three on three in Nelson, with an intensity that rivaled any of our school practices.  Whenever someone would conjure a shot out of thin air and make it, we’d call out “Hey, is that Ben Rudin?”

Those college games were woven into our formative years.  The scrimmages in Nelson got better and better, as we did the same.  Soon we were driving ourselves to games, both home and away, and cheering in the fan sections, previously a not-feared-but-respected domain of college students.  The best road trip my friends and I ever took was down to Williamstown with my dad, to see Middlebury beat Williams and Amherst back to back to win NESCAC.  And the second best was when the same crew drove down to Amherst to watch Middlebury lose in overtime on a deep three by Taylor “Bleeping” Barrisse.  As my dad says, “The best thing in sports is winning.  The second best thing is losing.”

Today my teammates and I are spread across the country, from Elon in North Carolina to Drexel in Pennsylvania.  Our college allegiances have shifted to fit our respective schools, but I like to think that the Middlebury Panthers will always hold a place in our hearts as the team that first taught us how basketball can and should be played.

This year’s Middlebury team has been frustrating at times, but inspiring at other times.  They play hard, and they’re beginning to play for each other, the hallmark of the teams of my youth.  The biggest game of the season, this Friday’s home matchup with the rival Williams College, has potential to be the turning point of the season.  A win would be the adrenaline shot this team needs to make the NESCAC run that they are capable of.   But more than that, it would be the reward for not giving up on this trying season.  And that reward would be for the fans as well as the players.

My two best friends from high school are coming down for the game, as it falls during their “dead week” after J-Terms.  One of them goes to Elon in North Carolina, and the other is from Williams.  It would be a fascinating case study for a Psych. major to chart his internal struggle between his two allegiances.  Formative Influences Versus Adult Choices. A make or break rivalry game with my two best friends in Pepin Gym?  Let’s just say that I’m looking forward to it.  And that Harry Potter will stay on the shelf.


  1. wrote:

    Beautiful piece. Remember watching the author grow up as I watched Midd hoops doing the same. The earliest of years of this re-birth (from 2006-07 to that first NESCAC title) were truly special and cherished by many. “they played hard, together and with a passion that was visible” – betting we see that tonight as well – Midd by 6.

    Friday, January 31, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  2. wrote:

    Peter: well said. TheBoys were almost there last nite and couldn’t quite close the deal. A little more maturity at the guard and ‘3’ will help that. An old coaching maxim says: you always learn more from a loss because you’ve got everybody’s attention. That said let’s hope we can speed up the learning curve because this year’s edition is out of time. From my skybox Dylan driving the ball moreand forcing defenders to move their feet would create new seams, which in turn create open looks on cuts or kick outs, or put us on the line. Noticed that Hunter had a couple of those last nite. a positive. That helps Joey and in turn JakeB. or Nate do the same.

    Hamilton will not beat us if we play the same game that we did for the first 31 minutes last nite. Jack was active, we had open looks from different spots, we controlled their top guys pretty well(Hamilton can’t match the Mayer/Robinson talent level), and we rebounded the ball quite well for us. All positives. All those attributes travel well. So if we don’t have a ‘blues’ hangover from a tough ‘L’ Midd by ten isn’t a stretch.

    Given the musings of ‘Chip Hilton’ before you, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on the state of Panther Hoops over the next few years. Clubbo.

    Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

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