Alex Berthiaume has had to learn a new offense, get acclimated with new players and coaches, and play against new teams in his first few weeks as a member of the Springfield College men’s basketball team.
He has not, however, had to get familiar with the court inside Blake Arena, a place he dominated while playing in the Hoophall Classic for Cathedral High School a few years ago.
“My senior year, I had a really good game. I had 31 points,” said Berthiaume. “We played against a kid who was a Division I recruit and we played really well.”
Berthiaume took home game MVP honors after leading his team to a 73-53 win over Northwest Catholic back in January 2008. The standout point guard also earned MVP accolades in his junior season at the same tournament.
Now, after two years away from Springfield, the high school standout is back where he is most comfortable and tearing up defenses on a nightly basis.
Following his senior year of basketball at Cathedral, Berthiaume only received one Division II offer. The college was not an ideal place to play, so the five-foot-11-inch Springfield, Mass. native played AAU ball in the spring for the Nike Expressions.
“I played in the first three tournaments and I got four scholarship offers,” said Berthiaume. “Two were for that upcoming year, and two were for the year after prep school, so I had to make a decision and I decided to take a scholarship for that year.”
The offer he chose to accept came from St. Michael’s College and in his first season, Berthiaume led the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game and 3.6 assists.
However, injuries held him to just six games during his second season with the Purple Knights and left him feeling further away from home than he would have liked.
“It wasn’t like it was in the middle of nowhere, it was in a nice city,” said Berthiaume. “I just wanted to be closer to home and closer to my family and kind of be able to play in front of them.”
At the beginning of his junior year, Berthiaume made the decision. After looking at local schools such as Western New England University and Westfield State University, Berthiaume decided to come to Alden Street.
“I kind of knew Springfield was the place right away when I was looking to transfer,” said Berthiaume.
Being a local kid, Springfield head coach Charlie Brock recruited Berthiaume out of high school and also coached Cathedral’s current head coach Justin Dalessio when he played at Springfield.
“We have a very close association with the program,” said Brock. “We went after him pretty hard.”
Although Brock did not get Berthiaume the first time around, he is more than happy to have him running the offense now.
“He’s a very good ball-handler and a strong finisher,” said Brock. “I think there have been times, quite frankly, when he hasn’t played up to his potential as far as finishing and getting to the foul line.”
Last Friday in an 81-71 loss to Amherst, Berthiaume certainly played up to his potential. The junior finished with a Springfield career-high 32 points but got little help on the offensive end from the rest of his team.
“He’s done great,” said Brock. “And obviously the weekend he scored, he’s got to get some help, but that was just a matter of us knocking down some shots.”
“We felt pretty strongly that he would be in a position to do well off ball screens, so we’ve set up a couple of plays to let him maximize that,” the 14-year coach added.
Against the Lord Jeffs, Berthiaume had great success off high screens. The speedy guard beat his defender to the hoop seemingly any time he wanted as Amherst had no one to stay in front of him.
His ball control and speed make him a match-up nightmare, and Brock wants to help him grow into a complete all-around player.
“I almost wish he would shoot from the perimeter a little bit more,” said Brock. “Sometimes I feel like he’s going where he’s going, not because he’s read the defense, but because that’s what he wants to do, and that’s an evolving situation.”
Brock noted that as a coach, you don’t always want to tell good players what to do all the time because it can cause them to think too much as opposed to reacting and letting natural basketball sense take over.
What he can do as a coach is show him different looks in practice to help him evolve.
“We want to change up what we’re doing defensively against him, so he has more opportunities to read different things,” said Brock.
Teams have put a guy in his face until he gets rid of the ball and then tried to recover, others have gone to the zone and some have tried double teaming him. However, being the guy that teams key in on is nothing new to Berthiaume.
“Ever since my junior year of high school, I’ve had to be the go-to guy,” said Berthiaume. “My sophomore year, we had a great group of guys and we ended up losing in the Western Mass. Championship. Before my junior year started, my coach told me I was going to have be the guy to lead the team.”
“I’m not always just gunning, though. I love getting guys involved. I just try and mix it up.”
Berthiaume has again been put in a situation to lead as he was voted one of the team captains prior to the season. Being the new guy is hard enough. Having to be a captain with a new group of guys is entirely different.
“I think sometimes I’m kind of hesitant because I’m a new face, and guys that have been here don’t really want a new guy coming in and telling them what to do ,” said Berthiaume.
“I think for myself. I’ve always kind of been a leader. I’m always talking on the court I’m always yelling at someone when they’re doing a good job.”
“At first, I was kind of hesitant about meeting the new guys because I was really comfortable with 12 other guys at my other school, but as soon as I came on campus, I met all the guys and they were real cool and real accepting,” the newly-minted captain added.
The transition has been smooth and the Pride have jumped outw to a 5-2 start. Moving forward, Brock expects his new leader to continue to grow and help his team succeed.
“He’s a leader,” said Brock. “He’s tough and he’s competitive and he wants to win. He’s evolving, and we as a team are a work in progress, too, so it’s been good.”