Two seniors bid “au revoir” to Newman Arena Saturday night as the basketball team played its final home game against Dartmouth. Tri-captain Jacques Vigneault and classmate Brandon Barton were surrounded by family and friends as they both were called out for the starting lineup.
Of the night, Vigneault, No. 3 on the roster, explained the best part was sharing it with family and friends.
“Whenever my family comes to see me play it’s always awesome. Not only was my mother there and my brother, but also my father. They were here at the same time and that has never happened since I’ve been here [at Cornell]. That meant a lot.”
He later added, “All of my close friends were here, and everyone from the Rebounders Club was here; everyone that has followed my career so far, that was able to make it, was here. It just meant a ton to play one last time.”
Barton agreed that it was a great night. “Saturday night was really special for me because it was kind of the ultimate point in my college basketball career. Because I didn’t play when I came out of high school and then I didn’t play varsity until coach asked me to this year; it really meant a lot to get my first start and to get some legitimate playing time in front of my mother and all of my friends. It really meant a lot to me.”
Vigneault, a Quebec native, actually saw the first of his fans’ appreciation on Friday night in the team’s come from behind win against Harvard. During the playing of the Canadian national anthem, three unknown individuals let down a hand painted banner that read, “Au Revoir Jacques #3 Merci Beaucoup.”
Of his fans support, he said, “It was great. It made me feel appreciated, and after four years and the amount of time I spent in this gym, to see this kind of appreciation is really rewarding.”
Vigneault started the season as the only senior on the team, bringing guidance to a core group of underclassmen.
“I think the guys all respect what he has done,” explained head coach Steve Donahue. “He does everything you could possible want a leader to do. He’s the first one to get here, and the last one to leave, and he works hard every day. He does all of the great things you want your championship teams to do.”
Vigneault is known for his signature ‘trey’ and did not disappoint when he opened play Saturday night sinking one from behind the line.
His precise outside shooting began in sixth grade as an after school activity. Reminiscing about his basketball start with his father the other night, Vigneault explained that an all-star team was formed from all of the grade school children in the area. After the initial tryout he did not make the roster, but two weeks later was offered a spot.
“It was a blessing in disguise because after that, I was hooked. And here I am.”
After four years he has gathered quite a few memories, but says his fondest ones are of the times spent with his teammates, and the games in which his family were able to attend.
“Most of the big games that I have had as an individual, either my mother, or my brother, or my father, someone was in the stands watching. And my family certainly hasn’t been to every game, but, whenever I get a little more playing time, or play better they were there, and that really meant a lot to me.”
A communication major, Vigneault is hoping to play professionally in France next year. He says, “It has always been a dream of mine to play professional basketball, and this is the time to fulfill this dream.”
Barton is actually fairly new to the Varsity roster, joining the team in December, after playing on the JV squad for two years. He explains that he is thankful for really getting back into basketball.
He said, “I really want to thank that person for kind of pushing me and kicking my butt back into being a disciplined person and not only getting my basketball life in order but just getting my life in order.”
Of the move from JV to Varsity Barton explained, “I was fortunate enough, under the guidance of Coach Metz, to really learn the system well and to play a couple of good games at the end of the JV season that coach Donahue must have took some notice of.”
He latter added, “It was really an easy decision for me [to move up] because ever since I was little I wanted to play division one college basketball. So there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to play.”
“Brandon is someone I was just impressed with how hard he worked,” stated Donahue. “I loved his attitude and I just saw that he loved to play this game. He brings us some enthusiasm and he is a tough kid. I think that is evident. He is a great addition to our program.”
A Brooklyn native, he said he started playing when he was four or five years old at a park down the street from his home. He said he just got involved playing with the older kids, and then started playing in church leagues and then in high school.
Although he has just been with the team a short while, Barton says he has enjoyed the experience and gathered a few memories. When asked his favorite he said, “I think just getting to know these guys. Even they’ll tell you, the first day I showed up, it was like, ‘Who is this kid, why is he playing?’ And since then it has been a growth period for both the team and me, and I have really gotten to know a lot of the guys well, and in some sense it’s kind of ending a little too short.”
Although he is unsure of his career after Cornell, Barton, a Hotel Administration major, is sorting through offers from various restaurant companies.
The seniors will play their final collegiate games this weekend, as the team is on the road playing Princeton and Penn. Merci et la bonne chance.
Archived article by Kristen Haunss