(The Gulls Graduate feature series is intended to share stories about our 2019 Class that the casual fan may not be aware of. We hope you enjoy this feature series as we prepare for our student-athletes to leave The Nest, onto bigger and better life adventures and successes.)
Written by Isabella Castineyra
- ECGulls.com Contributor / Marblehead High School Intern
BEVERLY, Mass. – Joe Shehadi (Dorset, Vt.), a graduating senior at Endicott, has compiled a multitude of accomplishments over his four years at The Nest. Academically, Shehadi is a double major in finance and business management who currently sports a 3.56 cumulative grade point average (GPA). He has been named to the CCC Academic All-Conference Team in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 and also is a multiple time Dean's List recipient for his work in the classroom. Athletically, Shehadi played basketball for the Gulls all four years and was most recently named the 2018-19 CCC Defensive Player of the Year.
Shehadi's way of arriving at Endicott could be considered unconventional though: "In the fall of my senior year of high school, I was committed somewhere else. It came to March and I hadn't heard back yet [from that school], so it was a quick turn around for me. I wasn't sure if I was going to do a post-grad year at a prep school, or decide to look for opportunities at other colleges," he recalled.
However, Shehadi's "second chance" came via Endicott men's basketball head coach Kevin Bettencourt who reasserted himself after Shehadi's prior commitment fell through. Within a week after visiting Endicott, Shehadi applied and found himself accepted and enrolled.
There were several reasons that Shehadi committed to Endicott: "When I came down here with my dad I fell in love with the area. The other reason was that the internship program is really profound and has a long-lasting effect on most of the graduates' careers. That's a huge differentiator as well as their athletic program and the community surrounding athletics is not one that you see at that many schools."
In Shehadi's first two years playing at Endicott, he saw little time on the court as the guard averaged just 4.5 minutes in 2015-16 and 6.8 minutes in 2016-17. Despite the limited amount of minutes, Shehadi understood why.
"Most college athletes are coming from being one of the better players on their high school team, so it's definitely a humbling experience that you need to have when your time comes. Learning from those guys, their habits, their work ethic, even just being able to practice against my teammates who are that talented for two years makes you better. It's easy to go in the wrong direction, and get your mind in a weird place and not want to keep working. I basically have spent my whole life playing basketball. You just got to wait it out and things will fall into place and turn out well," stated Shehadi.
The class ahead of Shehadi had two of the most successful basketball seasons in Endicott history. In the 2015-16 season, the Gulls made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Washington, D.C. The Gulls faced a heartbreaking loss to the College of Wooster, 91-83, in overtime.
Endicott built off of that success in the 2016-17 season, not only making the NCAA Tournament, but also playing in the Sweet Sixteen. Although the Gulls fell to Middlebury College in the third round of the tournament, they still recorded the best men's basketball season Endicott College has seen to date, which included a program-record 24 wins.
SHEHADI'S WORK ETHIC SHINES THROUGH
Chris Lipscomb '17, M'18 (West Springfield, Mass.), who played a pivotal role in Endicott's 2015-16 and 2016-17 playoff runs, was an upperclassman at that time during what was then Shehadi's freshman and sophomore seasons. Lipscomb, now an assistant coach with men's basketball team, seen Shehadi's growth as a player, both as his peer and mentor.
"When Joey was a sophomore and we made the run to the Sweet Sixteen, we had a very senior-heavy roster... there were younger guards on the team, like Joey, who did not get a ton of playing time in their first couple years. One of the things that stuck out to me about Joey though was his commitment to competing hard every day at practice, regardless of what the playing time situation was... You could tell he would be a leader among his class very early in his career."
Coach Bettencourt felt the same way Lipscomb did.
"Joe is a great example of hard work paying off. He came in and was a very good player but was behind all-star caliber upperclassmen. Instead of pouting, he competed every single day against them and improved to become a consistent and mature player for us when it was his turn to get minutes on game day."
Shehadi's hard work truly paid off as an upperclassman. During his junior and senior years, Shehadi saw a drastic improvement in playing time as he averaged 28.9 minutes in 2017-18 and 29.9 minutes of time on the court per game during the 2018-19 season.
Shehadi finished his career at Endicott with exceptional statistics. He had 408 points, 283 rebounds, 183 assists, and 64 steals by the time his career as a Gull came to an end. As a senior, Shehadi led his team in rebounds and three-point percentage; Shehadi also boasts the sixth highest three-point percentage (.397) in Endicott men's basketball program history. Other statistics where Shehadi ranks among the career leaders in program history include defensive rebound average (19th, 3.2 per game), assists (13th, 183), and assists average (13th, 2.4 per game).
"Seeing all the hard work pay off just gives you the motivation to keep working. I'm really glad I stuck with it and just kept working. Trying to learn as much as you can from those guys puts you in a better position moving forward. I wouldn't have had the success I did without those first two years," said Shehadi of his improved minutes later in his career.
During Shehadi's senior season Lipscomb became his assistant coach. In regards to being Shehadi's coach, Lipscomb states that "Joey was hands down one of the strongest leaders on our team. And that competitive spirit that I saw when he was in his first couple of years was still there! But it was different this time. He was a senior, he was more mature, he knew that he only had one year left, he knew he had to be even more of a leader than he had before. And I believe he delivered on that."
Meanwhile, this past season more than illustrated Shehadi's hard work as he was named the 2018-19 CCC Defensive Player of the Year. Coach Bettencourt stated that "Joe was a very deserving recipient of the CCC Defensive Player of the Year. Statistically, we were the top defensive team in the conference and I always viewed Joe as the leader on that side of the court. He never backed down from a challenge and was the most vocal in quarterbacking our defense. Also, despite being the smallest guy on the floor, he was our leading rebounder."
Shehadi was quick to credit everyone else for the award, however. That's not surprising coming from someone like Shehadi who is a team-first guy, through and through. "I don't think one person should be pinpointed for this [winning the CCC Defensive Player of the Year award], but our team was the best defensively in the conference. Fortunately, I was pointed out for that. I wouldn't have been able to get that award without my teammates."
Meanwhile, Coach Bettencourt has always felt Shehadi was a selfless player, "Joe always thought of the group first… which easily defined him as our leader. I often had to urge him to be more aggressive as a shooter but Joe did not mind taking a secondary role as long as we were getting good team shots. He would set an example every day by accomplishing the little things on the court."
LIFE OUTSIDE OF BASKETBALL AT ENDICOTT
Shehadi also completed three internships throughout his time as Endicott. Those internships gave him real-life experiences, such as learning how to deal with adversity and real-time problem-solving in an actual work environment, which sometimes can be difficult to come by in a classroom setting.
In the summer of 2016, Shehadi was the finance intern at the Vermont Country Store. In the summer of 2017, Shehadi went in a bit of a different direction and interned at a startup hydropower company, New England Hydropower, as a financial analyst. In the fall of 2018, Shehadi was a project manager at the Encore Casino, working for Allegheny Contract Flooring.
As for his next step after graduation, Shehadi already has plans to move to New Jersey and work with his uncle's flooring company. In the long term future, he would be interested in running a similar company in the New York area.
Despite having a promising future career, Shehadi did struggle with the end of his collegiate basketball career, "it was difficult to take the jersey off for the last time. It's hard to realize I will never play basketball at that high level anymore. There are good things and bad things about moving forward."
Shehadi will not be ending his basketball endeavors entirely. When Shehadi moves to New Jersey he already has plans to participate in three basketball leagues.
As previously stated, Shehadi had challenges during his recruitment process. He credits his sister, Sarah Shehadi, as one of his most positive influences. Shehadi's sisters' story has proven to be extremely impactful in his life. In Sarah's senior year of high school, she began getting headaches and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She went through surgery and fully recovered, playing lacrosse and basketball at Bucknell University.
Later on in her life, she had to get an additional surgery and as a result of this, lost half of her vision and the ability to use almost the entire right side of her body. After his sister's second surgery, he helped organize a fundraiser during his freshman year at Endicott which raised over $100,000 and benefited both the Boston Children's Hospital and another hospital in Arizona.
In light of his family situation, Shehadi brought up how important being a Gull is to him.
"Coach always says family comes first and that resonated with me [especially in the recruiting process]. If someone had to pick up their stuff and leave for their family they would absolutely be able to and not miss anything. On the other hand, if something were to ever happen to me, I know that the Endicott family would be there."
Overall, Shehadi had this to say about his time as a Gull: "The past four years have been the best four years of my life. I have absolutely fallen in love with this area and this school. I would highly recommend Endicott to anyone, whether you play sports or not. The community is just one you don't find that often anywhere else. I love working for a greater goal and representing the college in the right way."
(Photo Credit - David Le '10)