Talk to Jeff Steinbaugh about the 2009-2010 basketball season and you will hear mixed emotions. Steinbaugh has played basketball since he was six years old and knows that this is his last year of organized round ball as a player. But, the native of Plano, Texas, is excited, because he knows that this year could be a special way to go out.
“It’s pretty evident in practice, day in and day out, to notice the passion and willingness to win from this year to last year,” Steinbaugh said. “This year it seems like we want it so much more. Not that last year we didn’t, it’s just different.”
Steinbaugh knows how hard that he and his teammates will have to work to achieve their goals. But, overcoming obstacles is nothing new to Steinbaugh. Like most athletes, Steinbaugh has had a number of injuries that he has had to bounce back from. However, one he suffered his senior year of high school could have ended his playing career.
“I was basically tackled as I drove to the basket and it completely destroyed by elbow,” Steinbaugh recalled. “I needed to have reconstructive surgery (to repair the damage), but at that time I was committed to a college to play basketball. The surgery would have put me out for nine to 12 months.”
So Steinbaugh found a way to play through the injury. He went on to play two years at Richland College, where he averaged 10.2 points, 6.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. When he arrived at St. Mary’s prior to last season, he was presented with another challenge; adapting to basketball at the NCAA Division II level.
“The physicality of the game is a lot more intense (at the DII level),” Steinbaugh said. “I have just been getting stronger. I am almost becoming a man on the basketball court. It’s just something I had to adjust to because I was a lot weaker back in the day (before I arrived here).”
Now Steinbaugh is preparing for his next challenge, which will come off the court. But one thing will remain constant, if Steinbaugh has his way: basketball.
“I want to go to grad school, possibly, or just do something business-oriented within basketball,” Steinbaugh said. “I would like to work for an NBA team in the front office or as a coach.”
Those are pretty lofty goals for someone who is still more than six months away from graduation. But Steinbaugh has faith, both in himself and in God, to make the right decisions in his life.
“I haven’t thought about it yet (the end of his career), because I’m one of those optimists and I feel like the Lord is going to use me in some way in my life to help me spread the word or just become a better person. I think basketball is molding me to be a leader and a good person on the court and off the court as well in the business world or whatever profession that I choose.”
Q: What are you most proud of over the course of your college career?
A: “Being able to overcome obstacles like carrying a full course load of 18 hours, constant practices and missing a lot of class because of traveling for games. It has been tough to fit in, because I transferred from a junior college and lost a lot of hours. I am proud of myself for being able to catch up and maintaining a 3.0.”
Q: What will you miss most about St. Mary’s University after you graduate?
A: “Since I have lived here for two years, I would miss the friendships that I’ve made, and the professors that I have built relationships with. I guess I’ll miss the community as a whole because St. Mary’s is a relatively small university, so you make a lot of friends.”
Q: Do you ever stop and think “This is my last year”?
A: “I haven’t yet because I’m an optimist and I feel like the Lord is going to use me in some way in my life to help me spread the word or just become a better person. I think basketball is molding me to be a leader and a good person on the court and off the court, as well in the business world or whatever profession that I choose.”
Q: What motivates you to succeed?
A: “Just the fact that I want to be the best that I can be. People may think this sounds cliché but just for me to work for the Lord Jesus and be a disciple day in and day out, spread the word and just I what I can do.”
Q: Are you involved with other university organizations?
A: “I’m ininvolved in SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee) and the Marianist Leadership Program, where we just serve the community. I get really involved with continuing the heritage, which has been fun. Off campus I attend a Bible study on Monday nights, which has been really cool.”
Q: How often does your family come down to see your games?
A: “I’m fortunate that I have crazy parents whether I play two minutes a game or I play an entire game. My parents are very loving; they always support me. I live 4 1/2 hours away in Dallas so they are able to make most of the home games and when we play Dallas Baptist obviously, but other than that no away games. They are a very awesome family, I love my parents.”
Q: Who are your role models in basketball?
A: “I would say a role model in the way that he plays would be Steve Nash; given the fact that we both play the same postion and just the style of play. I really respect him and I love to watch him in play. I think he has the best body control in the league and he utilizes his skill extremely well. He actually came from soccer; his brother plays in England. Some one else I really respect is Derek Ficher because he is kind of like “the president” for players in the NBA. He is really involved in NBA Cares and he is a really strong Christian.”