The weekend of the Merrimack College men’s basketball team’s Northeast Center semifinal win against Sacred Heart University, there was a trio of fans that senior captain Jordan Minor ’23 was particularly eager to see.
Basketball alumni Juvaris Hayes ’20, Jaleel Lord ’20 and Idris Joyner ’20, seniors on the team when Minor was a freshman, were on hand to cheer on the Warriors. And while Minor was thrilled to show his former teammates how he has grown as a player–18 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks in a 71-60 win–he said he was just as excited to spend time with his old friends and mentors.
“Ever since I was a freshman, I was blessed with these three seniors who really defined what winning was for me at a young age,” Minor said. “That bond goes way beyond basketball. I obviously always hit those guys up asking about basketball stuff, but we can also talk about life.”
Minor, the NEC co-player of the year for this season, said he has worked to have a similar impact on the younger players on this year’s squad.
“I feel like for me as a senior, this goes deeper than basketball,” said Minor. “My hope is when I am removed from college basketball years from now, the younger guys will be able to come and talk to me about things they are going through and really have that brotherhood connection.”
One of those younger players that Minor and his fellow seniors helped to ingratiate into the team and college basketball was freshman Javon Bennett ’26. Bennett fully admits it took him some time to get used to the speed of the game at the collegiate level, but with teammates’ support and more opportunities during the season, Bennett found himself in February being named the NEC rookie of the year.
“This is way more than I expected,” Bennett said about the season. “I came in working on adjusting myself to how fast the game is. The beginning of the season was rough. But the seniors started showing me different ways to approach the game, Coach Gallo gave me more opportunities and my confidence started to grow.”
Head coach Joe Gallo noted that Minor continued to evolve as a leader on the team, but it was in the midst of the Warriors’ February winning streak when he really took the reins.
“Jordan has exceeded expectations,” said Gallo. “The play was always there, but in the final eight games of the season, he really started to lead by example and demonstrate a maturity on both ends of the floor.”
On the defensive side of the floor, Minor and Bennett helped anchor a Warriors team that wreaked havoc for NEC opponents. Collectively, the team averaged 11.4 steals a game for the 2022-23 season, the highest among any Division I team in the country. In addition to his co-player of the year honors, Minor was named the conference’s defensive player of the year, leading the NEC in rebounds and blocks. Bennett, the league leader in steals, recorded 98 on the season as of March 5, the most by any player in the country.
And now, they can add NEC tournament champions to their resumes.
“Once we got things down pat during conference play, we started rolling and really went off from there,” Bennett said. “We’ve been preparing for this moment all year.”