Sprts News Sports News
Calendar Latest Sports News Athletic Home www.mccc.edu

MCCC Basketball Alum Miroslaw Babiarz Plays
Two Seasons in Polish Pro League


Former 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 the USA.

"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 Association.

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," he says.

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.

His 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.
Miroslaw Babiarz in Polish Pro League
In action in the pros
With the ball during his days at MCCC

Thinking 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 NBA player.

His 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 basketball."

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 athletes.

"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.

With 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 my life."

Return to Athletics Home Page

Return to Sports News

Return to MCCC Home Page

Read more Alumni Success Stories here.