By Chris Gionta
An average seventh grader does not know exactly where they want to go to college. Springfield College first-year men’s basketball player Jack Meagher did not know exactly where he wanted to go either at that age, but he did know he wanted his school to be on the opposite side of the world.
“It was always what I wanted to do. It was in grade seven,” said Meagher. “I always wanted to play college basketball.”
For Meagher, who grew up in Sydney, Australia, college basketball in his home country is scarce and underdeveloped.
“Basketball has become more popular in Australia,” said Meagher. “But the university teams are just getting going now. They’re nowhere near the level of American teams, American colleges.”
Like many, Meagher grew up with several athletic interests, and ultimately, the hardwood was his calling.
“I always had a ball in my hand,” Meagher said. “Whether it was a rugby ball or a basketball. I tried everything — I played cricket, rugby — but basketball kind of stuck with me. I loved it as soon as I started playing, and I started pretty young. I think I was like nine or 10.”
Although he grew up in a country not as enveloped in basketball culture as the United States, the Springfield forward had the luxury of growing up in an area of the country where the sport was very relevant. He followed the National Basketball League in Australia, and grew up 15 minutes away from the Sydney Entertainment Centre, which was the home of the Sydney Kings of the NBL until 2015.
“I was always going to the Sydney Kings games, which is the pro team in Sydney, where I’m from,” said Meagher. “So I was always going to those games and looking up to those players.”
He was able to come to the United States before enrollment at Springfield College was in consideration for him. Whether it was for a family vacation or a basketball tournament, his experience in America ensured him it was a country he felt comfortable going to college in.
“I always really liked America,” Meagher said. “The times I went on vacation or trips with my family, I always loved it. I was pretty fortunate — I got to go play in an AAU tournament in my sophomore or junior year of high school. And we went to California and Las Vegas, and it helped me realize how good the level of basketball is in America.”
A Division III program recruiting a player who is an ocean away during a pandemic did not come without its difficulties. There was certainly no way for Springfield coaches to see the Australian play in person during the recruiting process, nor was there a way for Meagher to visit campus. Therefore, the Springfield College men’s basketball coaching staff needed to rely on video footage, phone calls, and virtual meetings to see what the 6-foot-5 forward was like.
“I was on a recruiting platform called NCSA,” said Meagher. “And my dad and I would send out emails to all different schools. And I ended up talking to Springfield and having email correspondence with the coaches.”
The Pride had a unique challenge in recruiting him. Not only was there no way to see him in person before ever putting him on the roster, but location was certainly not as much of a factor for Meagher as it usually is for an incoming player.
The rest of the Springfield roster is within a 3-hour drive of the Birthplace of Basketball, meanwhile the man wearing No. 33 for them has to spend 20 hours in a plane to reach his home. His options were not as limited, given the fact that he would not be close to home no matter where he chose to play.
Thus, Springfield was required to make a good pitch.
“I think the coaching staff really drew me to Springfield College,” said Meagher. “I was always a fan of Coach Brock and his successful career coaching at Springfield. I really thought he was a great coach, and could be great for me as a player and a person. I also really liked the graduate assistant that was here that I was in touch with a lot (…) Coach (Sean) Martin, Coach (Chris) King, and Coach (Ben) Kistner have all been huge in why I chose Springfield College as well.”
Along with the attraction of the coaching staff and the game’s history at the school, he was also drawn educationally.
“I also chose Springfield College because of the great sport management program,” Meagher added.
Now residing in a new country, he is undergoing a shift in culture.
“My teammates still laugh at my accent and some of the words I say in the locker room or at a practice — they’ll always have a bit of a giggle,” said Meagher, breaking out into a smile. “But yeah, it’s a completely different world.”
Despite the people and surroundings being different for him in Springfield, one culture remains mostly the same for the Aussie.
“Basketball is basketball,” he said. “Everywhere you go, it’s still putting a ball in a hoop.”
Meagher is one of seven first-year players on the Pride’s 15-man roster, and has already made some contributions in his opening season. His standout performance was in a 77-71 victory over Wheaton on Jan. 12 when he shot 6-for-8 from the field and gathered 13 points.
He plans to have a successful college basketball career in the land opposite from his home, along with getting quality experience and a degree in the sport management program.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics