MORAGA, Calif. -- With the excitement of graduation having recently come and gone, Saint Mary's College is now a bit quieter with summer classes taking center stage for most still on campus.
Just a few short weeks ago, several members of the Gaels men's basketball team walked the stage alongside their classmates, capping their undergraduate careers with a degree.
By doing so, they became part of an ever-growing tradition on a team that places a premium not just on hard work on the court but off it as well.
Over the last six years, head coach Randy Bennett's group has been represented quite well at SMC's annual commencement ceremonies.
Of players who exhausted their eligibility -- meaning they finished their collegiate career in Moraga -- the Gaels have seen 21 players walk across the stage over that period. Every player over that stretch who has had the chance to earn his degree has done just that.
On a wider scale, the program has the second highest graduation success rate in the West Coast Conference, which consists of a 4-year rolling graduation rate average that includes transfers.
Yes, they've been big names on the court. For instance, Matthew Dellavedova earned his degree in psychology this year, ending his prolific four-year stay at Saint Mary's. He was named the WCC male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and was a three-time WCC All-Academic selection.
But, for as consistent as players like Dellavedova have been on the court, the program has been just as consistent off it. That's a source of pride for not only the players but the entire Saint Mary's basketball community.
"It’s an important part of our program—something we take great pride in." Bennett said. "When we recruit players, we're not just looking for good players. We're looking for good people who can contribute to the Saint Mary’s community as well, and the student athlete experience is a big part of that.”
Two players, Paul McCoy and Beau Levesque, earned their degrees in late May and will return to the team next season to finish their playing careers.
Levesque has been a standout in the classroom, earning the Mens Sana in Corpore Sano Award during graduation ceremonies as the outstanding undergraduate senior student in the school's Department of Kinesiology. He is also a two-time WCC All-Academic selection.
"They're models for the younger guys and what they should accomplish," Bennett said. "Graduating is the expectation on our team, and Beau and Paul have taken care of business not only on the court but off the court as well."