Seizing the opportunity
by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
Going to a new school is never an easy situation. You have to learn new people, a new system and a new school. It can be nerve wracking at times - especially if you are only going there for one year.
After a four year run at Daemen University, Maddie Stearns still had the itch to play the game of basketball. She felt her journey was not yet over, and there was still another chapter to write. Upon graduation from Daemen, Stearns started looking at her options where she could continue to play the sport that she has played since a child.
As a graduate student, Stearns still had one year left. When looking at a place to play, she settled on Buffalo State. While there was a little anxiousness to begin playing for a new team, and starting over, the girls at Buffalo State made her feel welcomed.
“The transition at Buffalo State couldn’t have been better. The girls instantly welcomed me into their sisterhood. I felt like I’ve been playing with these girls all throughout my college career, and I think that’s a direct reflection of the culture Buffalo State women basketball has,” stated Stearns. “Before transferring I had a lot of trust in coach Blair. He brings a lot of passion and enthusiasm to his coaching. Coach Serena has also really helped me develop confidence within myself. Coach Blair has done a great job of bringing everyone together and instilling a winning mindset. I am excited to be a part of a growing program that has an extremely bright future.”
The transition was made easier because coach Banker at Daemen helped Stearns with the process. Banker didn’t need to do that, but she was looking out for the best interest of Stearns, who gave it her all during her four-year run as a Wildcat.
With her support, Stearns settled on Buffalo State, and the rest is history.
“I had a terrific run at Daemen. Coach Banker and I sat down and discussed what kind of season I wanted to finish my career which is what led me to Buffalo State,” stated Stearns. “She played a big part in that transition and at the end of the day, it wouldn’t have been possible without her support and guidance. I know I needed a program that allowed me to get on the court, and test my abilities and there wasn’t a better fit than with Coach Blair here at Buffalo State.”
Stearns went from barely getting minutes at Daemen to not getting off the court at Buffalo State. It has been a big transition, at least early on, for Stearns. She used the offseason to really get her body and mind back to playing a lot.
She worked hard all offseason to make sure she could handle the minutes on the court. Playing the guard position can be grueling at times on both ends of the court, and Stearns wanted to make sure she was ready.
She knows anytime she is able to step ion the court it’s a privilege. It’s a privilege to play at any level of college basketball, whether Division I, II or III.
“I definitely focused a lot on conditioning before coming into Buffalo State, and during any breaks I make sure I am in the gym running sprints, and getting up shots to keep myself in shape and to stay locked in,” stated Stearns. “At the end of the day I know anytime I get to be on the court it is a privilege. Therefore I don’t take any minute I’m out there lightly, and make sure I am doing whatever my role may be that given night to help our team win.”
Take the physical side out of it, Stearns needed to get her mind right to be able to play 30 plus minutes a game, like she does right now. The mental drain it takes to be on your game for that long can take a toll on any player.
Coach Blair does a great job with the girls getting them ready mentally for games. They girls have a great support system at Buffalo State. Stearns knows that if she has a bad game that her teammates are there to pick her up.
“Coach Blair does a fantastic job preparing us for the games a couple days in advance. Mentally as a team we are able to study the scout and understand what we have to do to win the game,” stated Stearns. “Basketball is a game of runs, and I know no matter what happens on the court my teammates have my back. As a team we are able to come through adversity and overcome it together which is evident in a lot of our games.”
Stearns has been thriving through her first semester with the Bengals, the Clarence native is averaging 12.5 points per game, to go along with five rebounds per game. She had a breakout game earlier this season when she went off for 18 points to go along with five boards in 37 minutes.
It was her first game with the Bengals, and what a way to introduce yourself to the team.
“Alfred State showed the kind of team we are. During that game there were points where a lot of teams would have thrown in the towel, but we continued to battle throughout the whole game. Buffalo State is a team where any individual can step up on any given night,” stated Stearns. “Our team slogan is “Sometimes You, Sometimes Me, Always Us !” During that game it happened to be my night, and I try to contribute on the court any way possible. Our biggest strength as a team is our numbers. We are all in it together which makes playing for this team so special. We have something to prove this season, and that goal is what pushes us every game and practice.”
Stearns could have given up whenever she wanted too. Most athletes, in this day of college portal transfer, would have left earlier in their career to find some playing time. Stearns, however, stuck it out.
She is extremely grateful for her time at Daemen. She showed up everyday and worked hard and earned the coaches respect. She is doing the same thing here at Buffalo State. She comes to practice everyday to get better.
That was the type of player she was in high school at St. Mary’s and Clarence, and that’s the type of player she is now.
“My basketball journey started when I was a freshman in high school. I played for Saint Mary’s for two years until I decided I wanted to play for my school district therefore I transferred to Clarence. Coach Booker and the team took me under their wing and really helped me discover my love and passion I have for basketball. I was able to walk on to Daemen University my freshman year. I knew before coming into Daemen it would be extremely hard to earn minutes, however I was up for the challenge that Division II basketball had to offer,” explained Stearns. “Throughout my years I was able to help my team win four championships, and by my senior year I was able to earn a scholarship. Now I am at Buffalo State and have the opportunity to be on the court. It is extremely rewarding to see all my hard work pay off. Basketball has been something in my life that always brought me stability. Throughout the highs and lows this sport can give you, my journey has taught me the importance of persistence. If you keep showing up, and doing the work, eventually the results will show up.”
The results have showed up off the court as well. Stearns is getting a taste of what it will be like with life after basketball, as she is a first grade teacher. Stearns right now is doing it all, she is balancing a full-time job, school and being a collegiate basketball player.
The great thing about all of it is you won’t hear her complain. She takes it upon herself to be a role model and show people that it can be done.
“This year I got a first glimpse of what it is like to be in the real world. I am currently a First Grade teacher. Even though balancing a full time job, playing a collegiate sport, and receiving my masters could be difficult at some points I am so fortunate for the opportunities I have,stated” Stearns. “Being in the position to be a role model for these students has pushed me to become the best possible person I can be. In the future I hope to continue either with childhood education or adult education. I would also love to become involved in coaching and be able to give back to the game.”