BEVERLY, Mass. – During the entire 2018-19 academic year, the Endicott Athletics & Recreation Department will celebrate 25 years of men's and women's athletics at the NCAA Division III level. This landmark achievement will be commemorated throughout the year via special events, alumni spotlights, giveaways, and much more. For our fifth installment of our alumni feature, www.ecgulls.com reconnected with Endicott men's basketball Hall of Famer Jason Ebacher '96. Here's what Jason said about his time at The Nest.
ECGULLS: Describe your overall experience as a student-athlete. What does it mean to you now/what did it mean to you while you were a student-athlete?
JASON: It was an amazing time! If I could, I would do it all over again. I had the time of my life as a student-athlete at Endicott, at such an amazing time in the college's history. Being in the first class of men and being on the first men's basketball team was an outstanding experience.
Now, I look back in awe. I'm so proud of what my teammates and coaches were able to accomplish in such a short period of time. Yes, we may have been 5–20 that first year, but we played the best that Division III had to offer. We did not shy away from anyone that first year. Coach Hiser and Coach Delucia did not pad our schedule with marshmallows. They threw us to the wolves, and we were better for it. We took some major beatings in the first year, but we never gave up. That is why I'm so proud to be part of that team. Those losses made us stronger as we came back the following year with a winning record (14-10). That was an amazing two seasons.
ECGULLS: You played a major role in the beginning years of the program. What does that mean to you?
JASON: I'm honored that I was allowed to be part of it. It's such a great feeling to know that we helped build the men's basketball program into the powerhouse it is today.
ECGULLS: Talk to us about why being named captain was your biggest accomplishment.
JASON: Being voted by my teammates and coaches as captain was an honor. It's easily the proudest moment of my athletic career, even bigger than being in the Hall of Fame. I truly took pride in being the captain as I strived to be a role model for my teammates. I was the only upperclassman and the only student-athlete on the team with college basketball experience that first year. I needed to set the example for my teammates who were all true freshmen.
ECGULLS: Tell us about the Rivier game where you broke your nose. We kind of heard it was a wild one...
JASON: It was a crazy game. I believe it was early in the first half when Rivier's Jeff LeClerc (probably the best big man in the Greater Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) at the time) and I went for a rebound when he caught me with an elbow right to the nose. I immediately fell to the floor, was dazed and started to bleed all over my uniform jersey. The trainer immediately recognized that my nose was broken. After changing my uniform to the only extra uniform we had, which was a skin-tight guard's uniform, the trainer tried to patch me up as best he could. He stuck these long pieces of gauze in my nose to stop the bleeding. I looked like a walrus with them sticking out of my nose.
With this being our last game to determine first place, I immediately started pestering Coach Hiser to get me back into the game. I don't remember this, by our assistant coach Al Delucia said he came over to me to see how I was doing. Apparently, he asked me who the president was and I replied, "John F. Kennedy." We laugh about it now as I was only about 30 years off. I finally made it back into the game and actually had one of my better games as I grabbed a few key rebounds, scored a few baskets and took a very important charge towards the end of the game. Like many games, I, unfortunately, fouled out of the game as it went into overtime.
It was a fantastic game, as both teams went back and forth. Once the overtime buzzer sounded, it was chaos as our fans stormed the floor. You would have thought it was a home game. We had gone from worst-to-first in one year. It was the most exciting game I ever played in.
ECGULLS: Why do your teammates remain so close? We were told one of them was the best man at your wedding.
Yes, Jay McCarthy was my best man and is my best friend. Jay and my teammates are the closest people I have to brothers as I have two younger sisters. We will always be close, no matter how much time passes between seeing or talking to each other. I feel the same way about our coaches. In particular, Coach Delucia, who we still call Coach Al, is still involved with our lives. I'm so fortunate to have been able to play for and know both Coach Hiser and Al. They are both extremely positive, influential figures in our lives.
ECGULLS: Give us details on playing in Tupper.
JASON: It was actually called Bierkoe Gymnasium. Most high school gyms are bigger. Now, it's the conference center connected to the Wylie Inn (which was originally Ebinger Hall... the first male dorm in 1994) and Tupper. Bierkoe was a great place to play in. We must have had close to 500 people in there for my last game, which does not seem like a lot, but in that small place, it made for an amazing experience. I remember the students sitting on the stage being out of control and it being so crowded that fans were just about standing on the out of bounds lines.
ECGULLS: Talk about your time staying on as a coach. How did that impact you then, during the moment, and now later in life?
JASON: Yes, my final year at Endicott, I was an undergrad assistant coach as I had used up my four years of eligibility (two years at Dean College in Franklin, Mass. and then two years at Endicott). Coach Larry Hiser had just stepped down as head coach at the start of the program's third season to be the college's Athletic Director and handed the reigns to Coach Al Delucia. Coach Delucia took me under his wing and had me all over New England recruiting future student-athletes and scouting opponents. Of course, I would have much rather been on the court playing but, in the alternative, it was the next best thing.
ECGULLS: Why wouldn't you be who you are now without Doc and Coach?
JASON: If not for Dr. Wylie changing the trajectory of the college, I would have never been on campus. I remember, my junior college basketball coach approaching me in the spring of 1994 and he showed me a brochure of this college called Endicott College, to which I had never heard of, that was not only going co-ed but starting a men's basketball program. I was immediately interested as the pictures on the college's brochure looked beautiful. A few months later I meet with Coach Hiser, on campus, and I was immediately sold. I thought I was at a country club.
Dr. Wylie, made us guys feel welcome and at home. He was approachable, always remembered your name and more importantly cared which is rare from a college president.
As for my coaches, Coach Larry Hiser was the perfect man for the job. He was young, energetic, and most importantly, patient. Coach Hiser taught me how to be a leader, the importance of patience and to always look at the "big picture."
He was a great role model and I'm honored to have played for him.
Coach Delucia, was like another father to us. He truly loved us, and we knew it. He was always there for us and I will always be personally indebted to him as he not only cared what we did on the basketball court but more importantly how we conducted our personal lives.
ECGULLS: Favorite memory at Endicott?
That is a tough one. It would probably be the win against Rivier College which is now Rivier University in Nashua, N.H. It was our second season, my senior year, and we were playing for first place in the GNAC. The winner of the game would be the number one seed in the conference tournament that started the following week. We were able to beat them in overtime. It was the most exciting game I was ever a part of.
ECGULLS: What do you miss about Endicott?
JASON: My teammates and coaches. Yes, I loved the games, but it was the bus rides, practices, road trips, and comradery with them that I miss the most.
ECGULLS: What are you doing now professionally? How did your overall experience at Endicott get you to where you are today?
JASON: Immediately after Endicott, I got hired as Correctional Officer with the Essex County Sheriff's Department in Middleton, Mass. I spent 20 years with the department and was fortunate to achieve the ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain and Assistant Superintendent.
While at the Essex County Sheriff's Department, I went on to earn my Masters Degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and my Juris Doctor at the Massachusetts School of Law.
After passing the bar exam in 2007, I opened a part-time law practice in North Andover, Mass. where I focused on estate planning, elder law, probate, and construction law.
After retiring from the Sheriff's Department in April 2018, I opened a full-time law practice in Amesbury, Mass. In addition to practicing law, I'm an adjunct professor at Endicott College, Southern New Hampshire University and Colby-Sawyer College.
I started teaching in 2006 at Endicott and have been an adjunct in the criminal justice department ever since. I started teaching online at Southern New Hampshire University in 2015 and teaching at Colby-Sawyer College in 2018.
On top of all that, I'm the proud father of two future Gulls. Austin, age 11, and Brady, age 8.
As for the second part of your question, without my Endicott education, I would not be where I am today. My professors were outstanding and fully prepared me for a career in criminal justice. Professors David Parry and Robert Jerin, who are still teaching, were tremendous.
As for basketball, my time at Endicott taught me how to work with a team, be accountable and to be a leader which paid dividends for me while at the Sheriff's Department.
ECGULLS: Give us your thoughts on Endicott's continued success both athletically and as a college as a whole.
JASON: I'm blown away. Every time I run into an Endicott alum, we always say the same thing as our degree on our wall looks better and better every year, thanks to Dr. Wylie.
What Dr. Wylie did for Endicott College and its alums is amazing. I'm so thankful that I went to Endicott College and can't imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn't. Attending Endicott College is one of the best decisions I ever made.
MORE ON JASON EBACHER
A "founding father" of the men's basketball program in 1994, Jason Ebacher transferred to Endicott to help start the team. He immediately brought experience and stability to his younger teammates and earned the role of captain for each of his two seasons. His coaches described him as "a natural leader and incredibly hard worker who did all the unglamorous things to help his teams." He played in all 49 games of his Endicott career and started 44 of them. His leadership and dedication were crucial elements in the team's quick rise to success from 5-20 in 1995 to 14-10 in 1996.