Salem, VA. –
Although indigenous to Blake Arena, 600 miles northeast, the familiar sounds of the Springfield College men’s basketball team’s practice emanated through the otherwise deserted grounds of the Salem Civic Center on Thursday afternoon. Through the squeaks of sneakers on a scrimmaged fast break, Cam Earle received the rock on a kick out, toes, per usual, parked behind the three point line. The junior guard’s brown eyes locked onto the orange ring amongst a dark blue backdrop of the arena’s vacant seats. In one fluid motion, he let the ball fly.
Just like on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc this season.
Earle has come a long way from his past two campaigns as a member of Westfield State’s basketball program. After leading his South Hadley Tigers to the 2015 Massachusetts Division II high school state championship game, Earle logged only five minutes in 11 games played in his freshman season for the Owls. He played an average of nine minutes in 19 contests the following year, where Westfield State succeeded a 2015-16 record of 11-16, with a 10-15 tally for 2016-17. While averaging those nine minutes as a sophomore, Earle posted 2.8 points per game on .258 shooting.
But the sniper from South Hadley would not stay down. Earle transferred to Springfield for his junior season. He quickly found his way into the Pride’s system, evident in a pre-season exhibition against the Division I Massachusetts Minutemen where the newcomer led the team’s scoring charge with 14 points.
“He brings a nice situation to the table with his release,” said Springfield head coach Charlie Brock following the game. “If anyone wants to learn how to shoot, he might be somebody you’d want to watch some video on.”
Earle credits his teammates for his transition into the offense. “Coming in it was a huge change for me,” Earle said. “It almost reminded me of my freshman year [at Westfield] again. I had to get to know my new teammates and learn a completely new system. I thought the transition would be a lot harder than it was – my teammates are a great group of guys and they made me feel at home from the beginning.”
Springfield senior guard Ben Diamond, who transferred into the program in 2015, reflected on Earle’s beginning with the Pride. At the start, few on the team knew the quiet 6’4 sharpshooter off of the court, as Earle commuted, and worked as a parking valet whenever he wasn’t hooping or in class. The Pride’s trip to San Antonio before winter break however, brought out Earle’s true colors.
“From then on he’s been one of the team’s main personalities, always telling stories about recent wins in Fortnite,” said Diamond. “The thing about Cam Earle is that he’s always even keel, always has that ‘next play’ attitude. Like in the game against Swarthmore, he had a rough first half but he maintained belief, and next thing you know, he’s hitting every shot.”
After the tilt against Massachusetts, Earle averaged 6.3 points on a 40 percent field goal percentage while playing 11 of those games off the bench. When freshman guard Deonte Sandifer was lost for the season due to injury on Jan. 6, Earle was inserted into the starting lineup as a three guard, a role he would attain for the remainder of the season. In 13 games started for the Pride prior to the Division III tournament, Earle averaged 10.6 points on 42 percent shooting.
Earle credited the team’s nine game winning streak to the lineups ability to adjust and gel between Jan. 6 and Feb. 3, a crucial stretch after Springfield had dropped five of eight contests in December.
“After winter break we went on a pretty good winning streak and that really gave our team a lot of confidence,” explained Earle. “We played a tough schedule this year for a reason, and it’s paying off.”
Throughout the Pride’s most successful tournament run in program history, Earle has averaged 15.2 points (18 against Albright, 17 against Cabrini, 10 against Hamilton, 16 against Swarthmore) and four boards.
“The biggest change to Cam’s role since the season started is now we’ve relied on him to be our top shooter and a defensive stopper,” said Diamond. “He’s handled the pressure really well and he’s become tougher both physically and mentally. When he grabs a gritty rebound it can be just as much of a spark as him hitting a three.”
With Nebraska Wesleyan looming as their next opponent, the Pride will once again look to Earle as key offensive weapon toward finding success against the Prairie Wolves’ 3-2 zone.
“Our mindset as a team is that we just have to believe we can win,” Earle said. “We’re taking that into our game tonight for a chance to go to the national championship.”