When the 2022-23 Rowan men’s basketball season tipped off in early November last semester, many were surprised to see that the Profs’ sixth man the prior year, Hafeez Melvin, was not listed on the roster.
During the offseason, Melvin had a huge life event occur that changed the trajectory of his college athletics career.
“Last year during the end of the season I found out my girlfriend was pregnant and I was like ‘ah, it’s going to be tough with schooling, housing and everything,’” Melvin said. “So I was just trying to figure out how I was going to do it last year during the middle of the season.”
The news of having a child on the way makes an impact on anyone who is in this position, as it did with Melvin, but it wasn’t just this news that led to his time away from the team. It was the culmination of everything Melvin was trying to juggle that led to his departure.
“The reason I said it wasn’t my choice was because my grades were bad at the end of the last season, which was due to the fact I was trying to figure things out with my girlfriend with housing and everything,” Melvin said. “So [Head Coach Joe] Crispin was like ‘Yo, you can try to come back and play, but it’s better off if you just take a semester off, work on your grades, get your GPA higher and then come back,’ which we ended up doing.”
From where Coach Crispin stood, he saw how the weight of everything going on in Melvin’s personal life was bleeding over into his academics and knew he couldn’t add another layer to that.
“When a lot of those things hit all at once, it’s tough,” Coach Crispin said. “It would be really tough to add one more thing which would be the demands of six days a week basketball.”
So, the decision was made — Melvin sat out during the fall semester of this season in order to pick up his grades while also taking care of his daughter Myla.
This didn’t mean Melvin didn’t try to be involved with the team as much as possible, making it a point to be around the team whenever he could. From attending games to constantly communicating with his team, these efforts would be a difference maker for when he eventually rejoined the squad.
“It comes down to including him in everything. He already had so many connections from last year,” teammate Connor Dickerson said. “Keeping him in the loop last semester, even though he wasn’t playing, trying to get his thoughts on how we were playing or a certain tactical adjustment he might make were crucial last semester as well.”
With Melvin ensuring his connection to the team wasn’t lost and doing the work to improve his GPA to a 3.2 in the fall, on Jan. 11 it was time for Melvin to return to the Profs.
Despite doing all he could while away, it still wasn’t easy coming back to college basketball, especially to a team who is dominating in their conference and was in the beginning stages of what currently is an 11-0 winning streak.
“It’s tough, especially because we’ve been hot since we started, so we have a great record,” Melvin said. “If I was to come to the team in my first game that I played and we would have lost, everyone’s finger would have been pointed at me… You don’t want to mess the team’s chemistry up, you want to make everybody happy.”
While Coach Crispin wasn’t too worried about Melvin affecting the chemistry of the team, seeing as he already played last year with many of these guys, he did notice that there were some physical struggles.
“He was out of shape. He can run all he wants and he probably should have run more but he’s a gamer. He wants to play in games, everyone wants to play in games, they want to play in practice, five-on-five, and that’s how you get back in shape,” Coach Crispin said. “Fortunately we’ve had some games that were good for him to play some extra minutes and get really winded.”
As Melvin continues to work towards the shape he was at during the end of last season, he still is making an impact in this successful Profs lineup. Averaging a little over 13 minutes and 6.1 points over eight games, Melvin is still trying to prove something to his newer teammates and beyond.
“The only hard part is the younger players not knowing what you can do and who you are,” Melvin said. “With me not being at my top-tier shape, it’s like I can talk the talk but can I walk the walk? That’s the question. And I’m just trying to put it together.”
With the regular season winding down, it’s becoming the most important time of the year for this team. Melvin wants to play a role in bringing home the trophy that he feels they left on the court in the 2022 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship against Stockton University.
Helping the Profs redeem themselves isn’t the only reason why a championship would be special, as the events of this year would elevate the importance of this accomplishment.
“That would be a crazy story to tell her, even though she [Myla] might not believe me,” Melvin said. “That’s why we have videos now. Because I remember my dad used to tell me all these stories and I’m like ‘dad, you didn’t do this’ or like ‘you suck.’ So now I can actually show her the videos and show her the film.”
While the goal is the championship, everyone part of the Rowan men’s basketball team realizes that what Melvin has done already this year is something he should be proud of.
“To preserve, to be able to have the confidence to come in and also the security to embrace when things don’t go your way is more commendable than people may tend to realize,” Coach Crispin said. “That’s a hard thing to do and it’s a humble thing to do.”
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