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Men's Basketball

Beau Levesque has navigated a long road to become one of Saint Mary's most valuable players.
Beau Levesque has navigated a long road to become one of Saint Mary's most valuable players.
MBK | Adversity Proves Prelude To Success For Levesque
Release: Friday 02/13/2013 
by SMC Athletics

MORAGA, Calif. -- Around lunch time on the third day of the spring semester, McKeon Pavilion is supposed to be quiet. There are no practices scheduled, no classes to be held and the majority of the student body is spending time catching up with friends or eating.

Yet, there is an echo that resonates through the gym. The familiar patter of a basketball, hitting net before court, again and again.

It's a sound Beau Levesque does not take for granted.

For nearly four years, Levesque has been a part of the Saint Mary's men's basketball program. Until this season, he served as a role player whose primary claim to fame was a surprise contribution off the bench during the Gaels' NCAA Tournament run in 2010.

Now, he stands as arguably one of the West Coast Conference's most valuable players.

Levesque has become the ultimate sixth man for head coach Randy Bennett, contributing scoring, rebounding and defense as a power forward for a team that carries a 21-4 record into Thursday's game against Gonzaga.

Don't think of this as your run of the mill walk-on makes good tale. Levesque's is a story that takes a little explaining to fully appreciate.

It starts just before he enrolled at De La Salle High School in Concord. Always an active kid, he rode his bicycle home as usual from a day spent swimming. Dehydrated, Levesque passed out on his handlebars.

He awoke to the sensation of his bike wheels cutting through gravel. His eyes finally open, Levesque had little more than a few seconds before crashing.

"I broke my whole left side," Levesque said. "I ran my knee into a metal pole, so I split my knee open. When I did that, it hit my hip out of its socket backwards. I broke my pelvis in three spots, broke my collarbone, broke a couple toes and broke my kneecap. High school started out trying to recover from that."

It took Levesque until his junior year of high school to return to a form good enough to contribute for the Spartans. Once back on the court, he flashed the ability that would ultimately land him at Saint Mary's. As a senior, he averaged 12 points and eight rebounds for a team ranked No. 24 in the nation.

To take the next step in his basketball and academic career, Levesque considered a few schools. Santa Clara and UC San Diego were in the running. His dad, Brad, and sister, Tina, attended the University of San Diego and Levesque admits that if the Toreros had recruited him, he would've considered going there as well.

The draw of staying at home proved appealing, and Levesque enrolled at Saint Mary's.

"You get a lot of people you know coming to your games. There was going to be a lot of pressure on me to perform well, and that was part of what I liked," Levesque said. "If I had gone to school far away, I could've been mediocre and been OK with it and a lot of people wouldn't have known. I knew there would be pressure on me and I kind of liked that."

He spent his freshman year doing what normal freshmen do -- learning. He played sparingly, and soaked up what he could in hopes of contributing more in the future.

That process accelerated once the Gaels reached the NCAA Tournament. Suddenly, a freshman who played sparingly became a key component.

"I knew we played a team in Richmond that ran the Princeton offense, which is the offense I ran in high school," Levesque said. "Coach Bennett looked at me before the game and said 'we might need you this game.' He had said that to me a lot before, it's just his thing about making sure you're always ready. When Omar (Samhan) got in foul trouble, (Bennett) turned down the bench and called me in. I was more surprised than anything, but just happy for the opportunity."

He made the most of it, scoring five points against the Spiders and contributing invaluable minutes. He grabbed six rebounds in a second round win over Villanova, and averaged 11 minutes in three NCAA Tournament appearances.

At the same time, all was not perfect. He still dealt with the remnants of his accident, managing the limitations as best he could.

"I knew it was always going to hinder me," Levesque said. "I could never squat, I could never do stuff like that. Couldn't get even close to a 90-degree angle in a squat. Even sitting in chairs and desks was weird because it would make my legs feel weird."

He entered the summer between his freshman and sophomore years with the intent to improve. He attended open gym regularly, and continued to work on his game.

That's when life changed course again.

"We were playing open gym, and I went to chase a ball out of bounds and there was a shirt on the ground," Levesque said. "I slipped into the splits, and for someone who didn't have hips that could move very well anyway, it ripped them. I couldn't even get up and walk out of there. I was able to put pressure on it eventually, but I knew something was wrong."

Multiple MRIs showed damage to his left hip that would require surgery. Those same scans revealed that years of overcompensating for his initial injuries had taken a toll on his right hip as well, and surgery was necessary there as well.

So, in August of 2010, Levesque underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left hip. In December, he went under the knife to correct the right hip.

What followed was the most trying part of his collegiate career. Rehab began, and Levesque missed the entire 2010-11 season.

"The whole rehab process was way worse than the injury for me," Levesque said. "It's so monotonous and you're doing such similar stuff and you don't see improvement for a long time. You finally gradually do, but sometimes, you just never know if you're going to play again, ever be able to play at the same level, ever be able to move."

He watched and learned, and returned to the court for the 2011-12 season. He averaged just under 10 minutes a game, working back into the rotation and getting stronger game by game.

At the same time, he started to earn recognition for something he took just as serious as his game -- academics. He served as co-president of Saint Mary's Student-Athlete Advisory Council. He was named to the WCC All-Academic Team. And, he was named to the NABC Honors Court for academic excellence.

The 2012-13 season figured to be Levesque's chance to shine on the court. That proved true early on, as he started the first five games and scored a career-high 18 points against Pacific on Nov. 23.

Bennett knew he could get more from the redshirt junior, and moved him back to the bench to play the role of sixth man.

"He's scoring, but he understands his role better now, when to score," Bennett said earlier this season. "He's a good scorer, but his responsibility or his role is to be a good defender and a good rebounder at that four spot. He's done that, and he's scored."

Levesque agreed.

"Coming into the year, I wanted to work my way into starting at the three (small forward). I did that, but it wasn't the role my team needed from me," Levesque said. "We have a lot of guards that are really talented. We have good bigs too, but Coach Bennett felt I could help more at the four and be more of a stretch four instead of a big three. Ever since he moved me there, the numbers will show it's been a good transition."

That progress hit a new high on Feb. 7, when in a 84-63 win at Santa Clara, Levesque set career highs with 24 points and six 3-pointers made. Through 25 games, he is third on the team in scoring (11 points per game), fourth in rebounding (4.4 per game) and third in total assists (38).

The journey is far from finished. Levesque would trade all the previous successes for future ones, and the way he sees it, the story is only just beginning.

"We've been working so hard and we know that you're not going to be as good in the middle of the season as you're going to be at the end of the season," Levesque said. "Teams that plateau in the middle of the season and think they've made it, those are the teams that get caught and get beat late in the season. We feel like if we keep our heads down and keep working, our best is really yet to come."