SAN ANTONIO — It’s not often the St. Mary’s men’s basketball team gets to take its mind off the game.
But Thursday afternoon they did just that.
The 13 Rattlers, who usually suit up for Rattler fans while boasting their nearly blemish-free record of 6-1, instead catered to the children in the pediatric ward and patients of the oncology ward at University Hospital, removing their usually fierce stance seen against opponents to ones of heart-warming generosity.
The Rattlers helped spread Christmas cheer and laughter to the children’s ward as well as to patients undergoing treatment for cancer, helping the youngsters and the not-so-young alike mentally escape their hospital beds by signing autographs, handing out t-shirts and basketballs, among other gifts.
“It was a big learning experience for a lot of the guys on the team, including myself,” said senior guard Daryell Taylor of Houston. “It was a good thing for us as a team, we needed to do this. It gave all of us a chance to be thankful for what we have and to give back to the community and come here in fellowship.”
With the holidays quickly approaching, St. Mary’s men’s basketball wanted to take it upon itself to see that the children and patients of University Hospital felt a sincere gesture of the holiday cheer.
“It helped us get out to the community,” said senior post Brad Hubenak (Kennedale, Texas). “We do so much inside and it’s good for us to get out and see what else is going on around San Antonio, especially these kids. It gives me peace of mind.”
The pediatric and oncology wards weren’t the only stops in the Rattlers’ generosity. The Rattlers also participated in the Angel Tree program, providing Christmas gifts to a family of five in need.
While head coach James Zeleznak constantly has his eyes on the next win, he feels the importance of he and his players reaching out and giving back to the community.
“It’s an important part of community service,” Zeleznak said. “It is a means to help us to continue to develop a well-rounded individual in our student-athletes. It serves as a grounding experience for our guys.”
Taking time out of their hectic schedule and out of their constant fight to compete again in the NCAA Division II regional tournament in order to participate in the Angel Tree program and visit University Hospital, the Rattlers showed they are much more than a team only concerned about stats and wins.
St. Mary’s University, as a Catholic Marianist University, fosters the formation of people in faith and educates leaders for the common good through community service, integrated liberal arts and professional education, and academic excellence. The University has six athletic national titles: men’s basketball (1989–NAIA), baseball (2001–NCAA Div. II), softball (1986–NAIA and 2002–NCAA Div. II) and an individual national champion in men’s golf (2006–NCAA Div. II) and a national academic championship in men’s golf (2009–NCAA Div. II). St. Mary’s also had more than 40 percent of its athletes named to conference, regional and/or national honor rolls this past year. St. Mary’s student–athletes graduation rate is 65 percent, higher than the NCAA Division II average of 55 percent. To learn more about St. Mary's, visit www.stmarytx.edu/athletics.