It's safe to say it was meant to be for James Bassett – the mystery recruit – to wind up playing his college lacrosse at Merrimack College.
During the recruiting process, Bassett attended an Under Armour camp on Long Island as a last-minute walk-up attendee.
He performed quite well at the camp, catching the eye of Merrimack coach Mike Morgan.
The only problem Morgan had with Bassett was trying to find out his identity. He knew Bassett, a defender at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, by his number from the camp but had no other information.
That changed when, by chance, St. Joe's coach Peter Hudecki called Morgan inquiring about potential playing opportunities for Bassett. During the course of the conversation, Bassett's attendance at the camp came up along with the number he wore during the event.
"Coach Morgan was like, 'Oh my God I've been trying to find out who the kid is,' " Hudecki said. "He was someone they wanted.
"Coach Morgan has very high esteem for James and is very happy with what he's done over there."
Bassett garnered individual accolades and capped his Merrimack career last month by helping the Warriors win the NCAA Division II championship, their first national title in the sport and third overall in any sport.
Bassett, a Getzville native, was a defender and started 18 of the Warriors’ 19 games during their championship season that ended with a 23-6 victory against Saint Leo. The win came a year after the team lost in the championship game.
“We decided all season that we were going to have to have someone take this away from us, we aren’t going to lose this game,” Bassett said. “We had a good game plan going in and we knew if we stuck to it and followed the game plan with our determination and grit we were going to come out with the win. Just an amazing feeling.”
Joining his family in the stands for the championship game was Hudecki, who made the drive from Buffalo to Foxborough, Mass., during Memorial Day weekend to see the contest.
The 5-foot-9 Bassett was named first-team All-Western New York in his senior year at St. Joe's and was a four-year starter, playing short stick midfielder in his first two seasons before switching to long stick midfielder for his final two years. He also was on two state championship hockey teams.
The road to the championship was seemingly smooth for the Warriors, who entered as the No. 1 seed. But there were some scheduling difficulties.
The seniors had to miss out on graduation. The ceremony was on the same day as the semifinal game against Seton Hall, but the school allowed them to attend only a small part of commencement and pick up their diplomas before the game.
This also meant that the team wasn’t able to play the game on its new field because it was being used for graduation festivities. The Warriors had to use the old stadium, where the seniors had spent the first three years of their college career.
“It was a cool experience being back on the field we started playing on and ending our playing career at Merrimack,” Bassett said.
Bassett picked up an array of individual accolades along the way, including being named to the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association All-America first team as a senior and winning the Northeast-10 and USILA D-II defensive player of the year as a junior.
"He really just embraced the process over there with Coach Morgan," Hudecki said. "He wound up being a captain. He had a really great four years at Merrimack."
Now, Bassett turns to the future with a degree in psychology in hand. He has since accepted a job with John Galt Staffing in Burlington, Mass., where he works alongside three of his teammates.
“It’s been a good transition into the work world,” Bassett said. “For right now, I want to get settled into this new job, but I would love to start coaching or stay involved in lacrosse eventually.”
For now he's content going out a champion.
News Sports Writer Miguel Rodriguez contributed to this story.
Story topics: St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute