BOTM: September

10625062_10204927741612259_6010294757759637175_nThis Month’s Baller of the Month goes to Michigan State Captain Colin O’Brien.  Colin has led his team to a 6-3 start to the season with solid performances both at the CMU Invite and GVSU Invite.
At CMU on Sept. 20th, O’Brien rallied his team back as the last player standing in a game vs. Central.  He was able to make a few clutch catches at the end of that point to help tie the game 1-1 when it looked like it would go 2-0 in favor of the Chippewas.
At the GVSU Invite MSU ended up losing two games, but both of them were close matches against elite teams.  The Spartans relied heavily on Colin’s accurate throw as they competed very well that weekend.
Overall, O’Brien had a fairly productive first month of the season.  He has emerged as one of the most dangerous catchers in the league, and has taken on a leadership role for MSU while continuing to improve as an individual.
I was able to talk with Colin on his early season success, and hear what he had to say about himself, his teammates, and his predictions for this NCDA season.
Kevin Bailey – First off, congratulations on being selected as Baller of the Month. It’s still very early in the season, but MSU looks to be a national title contender this year. What have you done in your first year as captain that has helped improve the overall performance for your team?


Colin O’Brien – Thank you, it’s a honor to be selected.
In terms of our team, our early success is in large part due to our efforts last year. We recruited a lot of young and talented guys last year. We really stressed disciplined team play from the beginning. Now, as all of these players are entering their second year, they’ve all made the sophomore leap as I like to call it. The game slows down, their throws speed up, and they have a better grasp on strategy and instincts. The only thing I’ve really had to do this year is hammer home the strategies and teamwork during each game that we’ve worked on since last year. And I want to thank Mike Van Ermen as well, because he was just as big a part of building the team we will have this year as anybody else.
KB – You personally have played extremely well so far this season. Now in your third year, what would you attribute to your individual improvements as a player since your first year as an NCDA dodgeball player?
CO – Again thank you for the high praise. I would say I just try to focus on improving every time I pick up a dodgeball. In high school when I was a pitcher in baseball, my velocity significantly improved by throwing a bucket of balls as hard as I could into a net a couple times a week. I’ve maintained the same mindset in dodgeball. Every practice I try to throw as hard as I can, when appropriate. It doesn’t matter if I’m well rested or coming off a tournament, I try not to take a day off. As a result, my throw has steadily improved each year. Then, on the other side of the ball, I always try to challenge myself and catch the hardest throwers. I always liked going against EP or Riley or Noe at practice because if I caught them, I felt like I could catch anybody in the league. And then this year especially I feel like my catching improved significantly over the summer to the extent that I get mad now when people don’t throw at me (like a certain GVSU Captain after his team was up 5-0). And then the last thing I would say is I just try to play smart when on the court. I always try to make sure that if I get out, it’s because someone else made a great play, not because I was stupid. I always told EP that he was more talented than me, but I was smarter, that’s why I could get him out.
KB – MSU has made two straight Final Four appearances, but you are yet to win a national championship. What would you say makes this particular squad different than those that MSU has fielded in the past?
CO – I think our mindset is set on a national championship this year, although that is not to say we didn’t eye it in the past. My first two years, I think winning the championship was a stretch goal. I think if you asked our team their honest opinion, we would have been happy with final fours the past two years. I know this year, with the amount of returning talent we have, a final four will not be satisfactory. Which leads me to the next difference from past teams. We only lost two members from our Nationals roster last year. Furthermore, only four players, including departed ex-captain Van Ermen, played at the last two Nationals for MSU. That stat may seem bad at first, but it really means we have a loaded young team ready to take a leap in their play. We were able to reach the final four last year with a team made up of half rookies. This year, with nearly a full roster of returning players, our eyes are set on getting our first, if not second and third and fourth, win against GVSU and taking the championship. And I mean no disrespect to any other team in the league, but until GVSU isn’t the defending champ, they are the ones we’re hunting down.
KB – Alright a few more questions: What team is your favorite to play, and what team that you have never faced would you most like to compete against?
CO – My two favorite teams to play are GVSU and UWP. I like playing against Grand Valley because I love playing against the best. I always have to be aware of every one on the court because every player for them can get you out. And then I also really like playing against UWP. Wisconsin-Platteville always plays us really well. They have hard throwers and good catchers. The past two nationals we played them first round. Each time they outplayed us but we were able to make enough plays to get the win.
I would love to play both Maryland teams. I reffed Towson at nationals two years ago and they played a great match versus UWP. Very stressful to ref but very exciting to watch. And then Maryland only lost to GVSU last year at nationals, so I think they would present us with a very interesting matchup. We don’t get to play east coast teams that often so I would love to play them both.
KB – Awesome, alright any bold predictions for the rest of this season either from your team or anyone else in the league?
CO – Michigan State will get its first ever win over Grand Valley.
It will be an all-Michigan final four.
KB – Nice, I’ll hopefully have something to say about that first part! Well congrats on a very much deserved BOTM selection. Any last comments?
CO – Well again it’s an honor and I’m looking forward to another great season of dodgeball.

Author: Kevin Bailey

Current NCDA Chief of Content. Former Captain for Grand Valley State University (#4).

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