Mourning the loss of basketball star 1

Sean Bertanza passed away in December of 2012. The campus honored his memory with a memorial service and ceremony before the January 23 basketball game against Albertus Magnus. Photo Courtesy of Christina Mazzone

Sean Bertanza passed away in December of 2012. The campus honored his memory with a memorial service and ceremony before the January 23 basketball game against Albertus Magnus. Photo Courtesy of Christina Mazzone

Zac VierraCo-Editor-in-Chief

When walking across the Lasell campus Sean Bertanza didn’t look like a star basketball player. Usually wearing sweatpants, his New York Yankee beanie, and sporting a lumberjack-like beard he looked more like a homeless man than the captain of the men’s hoops team.

He also didn’t act like the star. He wasn’t arrogant and he didn’t brag. Instead he was just Sean: a laid back prankster who always had fun and made time for everyone who was important in his life.

Bertanza passed away peacefully last December at the age of 22. He was only months away from graduating.

On January 24, there was a memorial service in his honor at a packed deWitt Hall. Many of his family and friends were in attendance. Later that night in a touching ceremony before Lasell’s game against Albertus Magnus, Bertanza’s parents were given Bertanza’s blue number 11 road jersey. Lasell’s 1,000 point banner was also updated. The newest entry read: Sean Bertanza 1,162 points.

Bertanza’s path to Lasell was not a direct one. He started college at Wentworth and transferred to Albertus Magnus before finally finding a home at Lasell. He found that Lasell was a place where everybody accepted each other, a value that he held highly, and this made him love the college.

“When Sean was around a lot of good people he shined even more,” said Bertanza’s father Mark.

Bertanza loved to joke around with his friends. His list of pranks included dumping trash in the room of one of his teammates and putting the TV remote on top of a dresser so his much shorter roommate couldn’t reach it. But on the court Bertanza’s demeanor changed in an instant.

“Sean was the only person I knew who could lace up his shoes, not know who we were playing, and still go out there and do it,” said teammate Brandon Ganesh.

Bertanza was a fearless competitor on the hardwood. He left everything on the floor and wanted to win more than anything. When one of his teammates was knocked down he was always the first player to run over and help them up.

He also had incredible athletic ability. In February of 2011, Bertanza scored 55 points against St. Joseph’s of Maine, a Lasell record. It was also the highest scoring performance in all of college basketball that season and the feat earned him the nick- name “Mr. 55.”

“It was the greatest shooting performance I have ever seen,” said Aaron Galletta, the head coach of the Lasell men’s basketball team.

But as good as his physical gifts were, Bertanza’s confidence may have been the strongest part of his game.

When Bertanza was attending Wentworth he wasn’t getting much playing time because the coach didn’t want to put the weight of the world on his shoulders. Bertanza’s response: “I want the weight of the world.”

“When the game was on the line he wanted the ball and that is very special and very rare,” said Galletta.

But there were still times when Bertanza’s carefree personality translated to the court.

He would call out a defense to his teammates then moments later ask what defense they were playing.

On road trips he was notorious for sleeping on the bus until the last possible minute before a teammate had to wake him up, “Oh, we are here,” Bertanza would say groggily.

“Sometimes he was in the Bertanza world,” said Ganesh.

But one story trumped them all: with three seconds left in a game against Mt. Ida, Galletta drew up a play for Bertanza to get the ball at the top of the key. After the team broke the huddle, Bertanza went up to his coach and asked, “Whose ball is it.”

“It’s our ball Sean, it’s our ball,” replied Galletta.

Seconds later Bertanza drained the game-winner and his teammates were mobbing him at half court.

Competition was in Bertanza’s blood. He played baseball and football growing up and also enjoyed friendly games of wiffle ball and flag football. He loved playing sports video games such as NBA 2K, FIFA, and Madden, and if the completion wasn’t up to par Bertanza would tell his buddies, “you stink.”

Bertanza was scheduled to graduate in May. He studied criminal justice but wasn’t sure if he wanted to go into that field. He also had thoughts of playing basketball abroad or going into coaching or teaching.

“He loved living life and he loved talking about the future,” said Mark Bertanza.

He was a huge fan of the New York Jets and the New York Knicks and loved Carmelo Anthony. On the court Bertanza possessed an Anthony-like swagger. Before one game-winning shot, Bertanza told Ganesh, “It’s Melo time.”

“Anytime we needed a clutch basket we were drawing up a play for him,” said Galletta. “I always knew we had a shot to win with Sean Bertanza on our team.”

As much as Bertanza was the heart and soul of the basketball program, in many ways he represented the heart and soul of Lasell. He was always open to meeting new people and gave everyone a chance to be his friend. He always had time for everyone and was constantly staying in contact old friends. If one of his teammates needed a ride to get a haircut he was the first one to ask because he would always say yes.

Most of all, he was himself and he never changed for anybody. He loved to be sarcastic but that was only to get a laugh out of someone. He would always be cracking jokes and could be seen with a signature smirk on his face. He liked to have fun but never took things too far and knew when he had to be serious.

“Sean is someone who is either you like him or you don’t and almost everybody liked him,” said Ganesh.

Bertanza loved listening to Lil Wayne on his red Dre Beats headphones. Before each home game he would set up speakers in the corner of the basketball locker room and blast Weezy, whether his teammates liked it or not.

When the Lasers returned from winter break it was much quieter in the corner where Bertanza sat. It was not the same. The heart and soul of the team was gone but his legacy, one that reached far beyond the court, will never be forgotten.

 

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