Alum Miroslaw Babiarz Plays
Two Seasons in Polish Pro League
Mercer County Community College basketball player Miroslaw Babiarz
('05) considers his years at Mercer to have been excellent preparation
- not only for the professional basketball career he has pursued
in Poland for the last two seasons, but also for a future that
includes returning to college for his master's degree back in
"I had a great coaching staff at Mercer," recalls
the 26-year-old Polish native, who attended Mercer from 2003-2005,
studying Humanities and Social Science. Led by Head Coach Kelly
Williams (now head basketball coach at The College of New Jersey),
with assistants Mike Falco, Greg Grant, Gary Williams and Scott
Nance, the Vikings earned a record of 18-13 and the Garden State
Athletic Association title in 2005, Babiarz' sophomore year.
Coach Williams preached the "three C's," says Babiarz
-- commitment, consistency and character. "He would say
if you have all three, along with basketball talent, you can
achieve something big."
Serving as the Vikings' co-captain with Craig Phillips in his
second season, Babiarz clearly got the message. A point guard,
he spent many hours working on his game in the gym and with
MCCC conditioning coach John Kalinowski, coordinator of the
Exercise Science program. In the process he got stronger, more
skilled and more confident. "They always reminded me to
practice and play as hard as I can and always give 100% -- no
days off!" he says.
The result was a leading role on the team and a lot of playing
time. "Coach believed in me and trusted me," he says.
Babiarz averaged 13 points and 4 assists, and finished his freshman
season second in the nation in free throws at 89%. In his sophomore
season, he was selected as an All-American Strength and Conditioning
Athlete of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning
Babiarz also committed fully to his education. He notes that
academics were emphasized by the coaching staff, including mandatory
team study halls. Coming to the United States in 2001, Babiarz
was still in the process of learning English when he arrived
at Mercer. "I remember that everyone was helpful and supportive,"
After Mercer, Babiarz transferred to Goldey-Beacom College (DE),
where he continued his academic and basketball careers, earning
a bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a concentration
in Human Resource Management in 2008.
athletic experience at GBC did not go as smoothly as planned.
During his junior year, his playing time was limited by a senior
starter in his position and, in his senior year, he suffered
a thumb injury during the pre-season that hampered his performance.
Still, Babiarz earned recognition for his contributions, including
the Most Improved Player Award at the GBC Athletic Banquet.
Babiarz in Polish Pro League
action in the pros
the ball during his days at MCCC
first of going directly on to grad school, Babiarz was given an
opportunity to play professionally back in Poland and decided to
go for it. He put his thumb in a cast for two months to allow for
total healing and then returned to the Trenton area to train and
prepare for the pros, working one-on-one with Greg Grant, a former
experience in the pros has been a mix of the familiar and the new.
"The pro game is different in many ways than the college game,
but it is similar as well," he observes. The level of the game
is higher. It's more physical and the players are more experienced.
And all you do is play basketball - no school, no studying, just
The pressure to achieve is real, according to Babiarz. "You
are expected to win. The owners and sponsors put their money in,
so you feel more responsibility. It's the job you are being paid
to do. Everyone treats it that way. It's your livelihood and nobody
is there to play around, but to win and get the paycheck."
Still, on the court, all of that is background noise. "It is
still basketball and if you know how to play it, you do just that,"
he says. In his two seasons Babiarz has scored over 500 points,
dished out more than 150 assists, pulled down over 100 rebounds
and had 100 steals.
"I have truly appreciated the chance to realize my childhood
dream to play professionally. Not everyone is afforded that kind
of opportunity," he says.
Babiarz is now ready for the next chapter. Taking inspiration from
John Kalinowski, his former professor and trainer at Mercer, he
plans to return to the United States to complete his master's degree
in Kinesiology or Sport Sciences in order to someday train professional
"Coach Kelly used to tell me that I will 'just know' when it
is time to move on and do something else and now I know that the
time has come," Babiarz says. It's a decision prompted in part
by advice he received from older players, who advised staying in
school. "I would always brush that off because all I wanted
to do was to play ball. Now I know that basketball isn't everything
and your degree is more important," he says.
his passion for the game undimmed, Babiarz expects to find a perfect
marriage between his basketball knowledge and a grad school education
that focuses on the strength and conditioning field. It's all part
of a journey, he says, that began at Mercer. "I will always
remember the years I spent at Mercer as two of the best years of
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