NORTHFIELD, VT — Some players are built to tackle big roles without backing down from the challenges that come with them. Saugus native Joe Bertrand is a prime example.
A senior forward on the Division III Norwich University men’s basketball team, Joe has seen increased minutes and an elevated role in each of his four seasons wearing the maroon and white Cadets uniform.
This winter, Joe cracked the team’s starting rotation and has made the most of his new role as a starter. In 12 games, 10 starts, Joe has posted averages of 11.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per contest while shooting 48.9 percent from the floor and 49.2 percent from beyond the arc.
“As a team we wanted to have a better season in the (Greater Northeast Atlantic) conference than last season,” Joe, a former star forward at Saugus High, said. “We wanted to have an overall better record. I wanted to continue to shoot the ball the way I did last season and increase my rebound numbers.”
Through 12 games, the Cadets are 4-8 on the season. Although it’s not the start the team was hoping for, Norwich has won three of its last four games as it dives into the GNAC portion of its schedule.
“We’ve only played four conference games and we’re 2-2,” Joe, a physical education major, said. “We just beat the third-ranked team (St. Joseph’s) in the conference. I think we’re starting to pick up the momentum and right the ship a little bit. Since the start of winter break, we’ve been moving in the right direction.
“It starts with our defense,” Joe added. “The past two games, we’ve caused a lot of turnovers and cleaned up the glass a lot. That leads to a lot of easy buckets for us on the other end. If we can continue to play solid defense, we’ll be in good shape.”
Making his senior campaign even more memorable for Joe is that his younger brother, Dan, is also on the team. Also a forward, Dan’s still clawing his way towards a role on the team in his sophomore season.
“This season has been another step forward in earning time,” Dan, a three-year varsity player at Saugus High, said. “Last year I didn’t get much time. This year started slow but we went down to Florida for a tournament and I started getting some time there. It’s one step at a time, climbing up the ladder. It’s definitely a process.”
It helps Dan’s cause that he has his brother at his side as he aims to carve out a role. Joe went through a similar process as an underclassman on the team and Dan leans on him for guidance. The two brothers also played together in high school.
“It’s great having Joe here at school with me,” Dan said. “He helps me through earning playing time and knowing the right thing to do. It’s nice to have someone there to help you out, going through everything.”
Dan agrees that although the Cadets didn’t get off to an ideal start to the season, there’s still plenty of basketball to be played and plenty of time to steer the ship in the right direction. With a slate of GNAC games coming up, now’s the time for Norwich to string together wins.
“We still have a lot of season left,” Dan, also a physical education major, said. “Our first couple games were non-conference games that helped us get ready for the conference games. The conference games are the most important part of the schedule. That’s the best time to pick up some wins and gain momentum.”
The Bertrand brothers come from a basketball family, as their father, Mark, is currently the head coach of the boys team at Saugus High. Mark earned his first win when Saugus defeated Bishop Fenwick last week.
Both brothers credited Mark for playing an important role in their basketball careers.
“I’ve learned a lot from my father,” Joe said. “It’s too much to even say. He puts his heart and soul into the Saugus team and I’m happy that he’s the coach there now. He puts a lot of pride into what he does. That something I’ve learned from him. He does that better than anyone.”
“He was my coach for almost my entire youth basketball career,” Dan said. “Even though he’s not my coach anymore, my father still gives me advice on things that coaches look for. I’ve benefited from my relationship with him both on and off the court. He’s a great leader.”
The Cadets are back on the court Saturday afternoon (3) when they visit Mount Ida.