By Vin Gallo
Managing Features Editor
If Springfield College men’s basketball forward Heath Post is a part of something, there’s only one emotion he shows whenever it’s brought up.
Ask him if he’s from Cheshire, Conn..
Graduate of Cheshire High School?
“Yessir! Public schools for life!”
Post’s answer isn’t high in volume. He doesn’t exactly shout it. But he’s grinning ear-to-ear. The confidence and sincerity in what he’s saying is clear. On this certain day in January, the Pride had just finished practicing ahead of their Saturday game against Emerson. Springfield’s record, at the time, sat at 4-10, having lost to Clark, 86-79 the previous day.
Throughout the season, Springfield head coach Charlie Brock has searched for the perfect winning formula for his team, one year removed from losing Andy McNulty, Brandon Eckles and Ben Diamond to graduation. He had also dropped a new word earlier in the week.
While playing under Brock, Post is always looking to expand his game. And his vocabulary. Every now and then, Brock will test his junior forward’s knowledge.
“It’s been a little running joke between us. He’ll learn a new word and then he’ll say it – and he always looks right at me and goes, ‘do you know what this means?’ And I go, ‘no coach I’ve got no clue what this means,’” Post explained, laughing. “Coach is definitely a teacher … He knows basketball but he also knows a lot about life.”
Such exchanges between Post and Brock rarely fail to get a laugh from teammates. Though Post doesn’t stop at chatter to establish a positive spark. When he jumps from the layup line its a strong take, tapping the glass after laying the ball in. When Post has the ball after Brock stops a practice scrimmage, the rim is sure to rattle just after the whistle. Post’s intention is to dunk the ball whenever he can, and always finish with an authority.
Springfield guard, Jake Jacobson, and Post’s roommate for two years, appreciates his fellow junior’s constant efforts in keeping the spirits high.
“He’s probably the most loyal guy you’ll know,” Jacobson said. “He definitely takes pride in whatever he’s in. I know if I had to pick a teammate to go to war with, it’d probably be Heath. For better or worse he’s gonna be right there next to me the whole time.”
Post to Springfield happened last minute.
He considers himself a walk-on for the Pride. There wasn’t any official pre-meeting or recruitment. Post had applied to a few NESCAC schools, including Bates, his mother, Sharon Lake-Post’s alma mater. When he wasn’t admitted, he turned to Springfield, his grandmother’s alma mater. Post’s father, Ben, and his father before him, also been worked on the campus graduate. Heath met with Brock, and applied to the school in April of his senior year. He was accepted in May.
“Growing up in Cheshire and then coming here, they were pretty similar (teams),” said Post. “When I think about the teams we had in my hometown and the teams we have here, everybody just loves basketball. They love playing basketball, watching it, working on their game. Then outside of that they love spending time with each other.”
Post started 26 games as a freshman in Brock’s system and led the team in blocks (1.6) to go with an average of 9.9 points and 7.6 rebounds. The next season, when the Pride powered its way to the NCAA Final Four in Salem, Va., he spiked those numbers up to 12.6 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 9.2 rebounds. Jacobson expected nothing less from his 6’6 former AAU teammate, and opponent from when his Branford Hornets faced off against Cheshire.
“He’s super competitive and that shows on the court. (He’s) intense,” said Jacobson. “And as a person he’s always there to help, just like he is in school – and friendly as can be. He knows everybody. He’s really a people’s person.”
Post’s father is confident in what his son can bring, and has already brought as one of the team’s leaders.
“(Heath’s) always been a vocal leader,” said Ben. “When he gets a chance to make a dunk its to fire the guys up. Things like that, if its a dunk or a block – he’s trying to motivate the others to bring out the best in them I think that’s when they’re successful is when they get contributions with everyone.”
Throughout Springfield’s Final Four run last season, Post’s teammates called him Big Country. It’s what he earned for being the Pride’s main country music enthusiast. And wilderness enthusiast. He’s one of the few Environmental Science majors on campus, and wants to work as a park ranger one day.
“I grew up spending my summers outside in the woods (I’m) really interested in nature (and) animals. I spent a lot of my summers in Maine too. I like to get dirty, I like to do all that stuff,” said Post.
Post comes from a hoops family; himself along with his brother, Tyler, and sister, Rylee follow their mother’s footsteps. Sharon Lake-Post is from Maine. She met Ben Post, at Bates while playing women’s basketball for the Bobcats. Sharon wanted to keep her kids close to her roots. The Posts made sure to spend family weeks up in Maine – without electricity and on the pond. Sharon sees the same amount of passion, the same amount of genuine interest from Heath in the world’s nature as he does in basketball and in people.
“We purposely did that as a place (for them) to go canoeing and fishing and get bug bites,” said she. “He just loved being up there, he hated wanting to come home. The more scraps and bug bites he could get the better. I don’t think we set out saying, ‘you have to take care of the earth,’ we just lived that way. Just by letting the kids out in it, that was a connection (for Heath).”
The area where they live in suburban Cheshire, an old Connecticut farming community, is woody.
“I take a lot of pride from where I’m from, very prideful,” Heath said. “(I) love my town, love the people of my town; they’re really great people, similar to the people at Springfield.”
Post grew up playing both baseball and basketball in a town with a predominant interest in football and lacrosse. Despite having a good handle of the hot corner at third base, he stopped playing baseball after eighth grade to dedicate more time to the court in high school. Whether it was blacktop or hardwood, Post was drawn to any opportunity. Sharon recalls the family’s trips up to Maine, a basketball always rolling around in the back. Any time they passed a court, Heath always tried to get his parents to stop the car.
‘There’s a basketball court I won’t get to play on,’ he’d say.
Sometimes, Heath would get the family ride to make a hoops stop. Like everything else, Post has always had the undying enthusiasm for basketball. Sharon also began to see her son’s hunger to succeed when he began to play for the high school team.
“He always feels responsible when he steps on a court,” she said. “Even in high school, it didn’t matter if he was a freshman playing varsity or a sophomore at Springfield, when he’s on the court he feels a responsibility to help everyone give their best and always hold the team to a high standard. He’s a little tough on himself.”
In the state’s old format, the Cheshire Rams battled through a tough SCC schedule every year, trading blows with the top teams of Class LL (Connecticut now refers to its competition pools as divisions). Similar to another team Post knows.
“We played well, and we were hardworking — pretty similar to how we play here (at Springfield),” said Post. “We work hard, we try to win the 50-50 balls.”
Post remembers distinctively when he discovered that acquiring skill always demanded more, even after his rec league or AAU games ended. Even when it seemed as though there was nothing else that could be done.
He learned it from Tyler, his brother. Heath was sitting at his dinner table doing homework one December evening. He remembers getting up and going to the window when he heard a ball being dribbled outside. Snow hadn’t fallen yet, but it was below freezing. And yet there was Tyler, getting shots up as the day dimmed towards night.
“I thought he was crazy because he had just had practice, and he came home and he was outside when it was eight degrees out,” Heath said. “I didn’t really understand the concept of putting in the hours (when I was young). But once I got older I realized that’s what it’s gonna have to take.”
After succeeding a team that was the Division III New England champion, Post sees a desire to be great in his team now.
“(We have) younger guys who want to learn how to be great and they’re not afraid to take chances and ask questions,” said Post. “It’s a new system for them — people are willing to sacrifice egos … so we can try to be as good as we can.”
As January draws to a close, the Pride sit at 7-13 following a 79-68 loss to Coast Guard at home. Their conference record is 4-5, after posting that same record for the month. With five games remaining in the regular season, Springfield is fighting for position in a heavily improved NEWMAC.
“I know there was a lot of expectations coming into the year, we haven’t really met our own expectations in the season so far but I think we learned a lot from Andy, Ben and Eckles last year,” said Post. “And I think we’re trying to do the same thing this year. It’s a process, we’re growing. We’re just trying to bring a consistent effort and get better day-to-day.”
Post believes the Pride has what it takes to find their way in a rapidly improving conference. He has faith that the 50-50 ball mindset is alive-and-well — the same style of grit that helped Springfield to the Final Four last year, and the same style of grit he grew up with in Cheshire.
“These are great basketball players that we have here and had back in Cheshire, but they’re great people too,” he said. “I think that’s what’s made my basketball journey special.”
Photo courtesy of Jack Margaros