Jan. 15, 2009

 

By Amy Farnum Novin
NCAA.com

When Chris Bach began looking at his life in the big picture, everything started falling into place. 

Bach, now a thirty-year-old senior men’s basketball player at East Stroudsburg University, started his career as a student-athlete at Philadelphia University in 1996, but it was short-lived.  After spending one year at the school, Bach decided college was not for him at that point and dropped out with no immediate plan to return. 

The native of Levittown, Pa., began working in construction and installing home theaters – very labor intensive jobs.  Bach talked about returning to school, mentioning it to friends who were former players at ESU while Jeff Wilson was an assistant coach for the program.  When Wilson became head coach at ESU in 2002, both players spoke to Wilson about Bach’s wish to return to school and college basketball.

“Chris and I had a couple of conversations over the course of the next month and he said he was somewhat interested in returning, but also had a full-time job and wasn’t exactly sure that was the path he was going to take,” said Wilson. 

It took Bach a few more years, and a little altered thinking before he was ready to make such a huge change in his life.

“My brother gave me a book by Joel Olsteen about being the best person you can be, and it really touched me,” said Bach.  “I read it and asked, ‘what am I doing?’  I think I was looking short-term with everything.  I had my own apartment, a job, a mortgage – everything going – and broke everything off and decided to go back to school no matter what it took.  I got in contact with Coach Wilson, and it just rolled from there.  Everything is in the rearview mirror now.”

Bach started his second stint as a student-athlete as a sophomore at ESU 10 years after leaving Philadelphia U.  Although he had kept himself in shape by playing lots of pick-up basketball, there was still a large learning curve on the court.

“When he first came back, we had a fairly veteran-oriented team and we found him a little rusty because he had not been coached in about 10 years,” said Wilson.  “He had been away from the structure of the game for a long time.  The first year, he probably only played about 12 or 13 minutes a game.  At times, I think that was frustrating for him, but the maturity that he displayed to continue to work hard allowed him to be very productive for us.”

It was not only tough to get up to speed on the court, but Bach also had to become a student again.

“At first, it was scary,” said Bach.  “I didn’t know what to expect or what to expect from myself.  I knew I would put the work in, but getting my mind going again was different.  I went from doing a lot of physical labor to sitting down every day for five or six hours and using my mind.” 

After a short adjustment period, however, Bach began to flourish.  He won a starting role as a junior, earning second-team All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East honors last year.  This season, Bach is living up to his preseason All-PSAC selection with 19.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

Academically, Bach has already earned his bachelor’s degree in Sports Management, graduating summa cum laude with a 3.8 GPA.  Last year, Bach was the only PSAC player named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District II squad.  This semester, he has enrolled in graduate courses to study Exercise Science.

In addition to Bach’s prowess on the court and in the classroom, his leadership qualities are unmatched.  He represented the school at last year’s NCAA Leadership Conference, and has been the team’s unanimous choice for captain in each of the last two seasons.

“He’s got the utmost respect from his teammates and coaches,” said Wilson.  “He’s been such a good role model for not only the guys in my program, but all of the student-athletes at the university.”

Bach’s consistent play has propelled the Warriors to four straight victories, including a win over Kutztown in their first PSAC East contest on Jan. 14.  He has led the squad in scoring in all but three games this season, and commanded the boards in all but one contest.

“It I had to do it over, I can’t say I’d do it any differently,” said Bach.   “When I went to school the first time, I couldn’t see the big picture.  I just wanted to play basketball and I wasn’t getting a lot out of it.  Now, I put a lot into everything and do my best every day.”

Bach and ESU return to action at Shippensburg on Jan. 17 for a PSAC match-up.