Brett Bisping has never forgotten where he is from.
The Siena Saints 6-foot-7-inch forward reigns from Morton, where he learned to play basketball in his family’s barn as an adolescent. However, during his four-plus years in Albany, N.Y., Bisping has learned to call Siena College his adopted home.
“Siena is really just like a big family and it has become a home for me,” said Bisping, who is now a redshirt senior at the Franciscan college. He was forced to miss the 2014-15 season due to a broken toe, in which he was granted a redshirt season, allowing him an extra year of eligibility.
However, this past summer, Bisping had the opportunity to transfer to a different school without sitting out a season. According to NCAA rules, a player who has completed their undergraduate degree with at least one year of eligibility remaining, may transfer to a different school. This rule allows graduate transfers to play immediately, without sitting out a season like most transfer students, as long as the student enrolls in a graduate program.
“The question of transferring to another school was never an option,” said Bisping. “Siena has given so much to me and I didn’t want to put on another jersey.”
Bisping was a three-year starter at Morton during his four year tenure from 2008-12 and averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior. His time spent as a Potter help build the foundation to play at a higher level.
“Morton had a great following for basketball,” said Bisping. “Tough and long practices at Morton were the building blocks for getting me ready to play college basketball and I don’t think I’d be where I am today without that.”
Following his senior year at Morton, he had a massive decision of which college he wanted to attend. He chose Siena, an NCAA Division I program from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, because of their renowned business program and rich basketball history.
“Siena has a great business school and they are very willing to help their students,” said Bisping. “There are a lot of active alumni that want to help current Siena students. They really want to see us succeed.”
Bisping was recruited to the school by then-coach Mitch Buonaguro, but Buonaguro was dismissed after Bisping’s freshman year when the Saints went 8-24 overall.
The following season, Siena hired coach Jimmy Patsos, who is still in place today.
Bisping admits that Patsos is one of the most challenging people he has worked with on the basketball court, but that their relationship has affected his game in a positive way.
“It’s a roller coaster with (coach Patsos). He’s one of the smartest guys I know. He is a very emotional guy and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He is a fun time but he wants us to go out and play hard,” said Bisping. “I definitely play harder now than I did in high school and coach Patsos taught me that. I am very thankful that he brought that out in me because playing hard has to be the foundation and everything else comes after that.”
As a junior at Siena, Bisping was penciled in as a starter and an important player for the program entering the 2014-15 season. However, in the sixth game of the season against Quinnipiac, Bisping injured his big toe on his right foot.
The injury, a broken and dislocated big toe, required surgery and he was forced to miss the rest of the season. However, he was designated a redshirt, which gave him an extra year of eligibility.
“I decided a few days after the injury to use (the redshirt) year as a really good academic year and learn from coach Patsos,” said Bisping. “I wanted to absorb as much as I could from him. It helped me become more coachable.”
It was during this time off that Bisping had the opportunity to learn the toughness that Patsos is well renowned for.
“I’m really proud of how he’s handled things,” said Patsos. “You can’t ask for a better kid than Brett Bisping.”
With a new mentality and playing style, Bisping stormed back to action in the 2015-16 season, playing the best basketball of his collegiate career. In 33 contests, he averaged 16 points per game, 10 rebounds and 33 minutes played.
What drives Bisping to go out there and give it his all? A passion for serving the people who mean the most to him.
“I don’t go out there and play for myself a lot. I have so many people supporting me and I want to go out there and make them proud,” said Bisping. “If I don’t go out there and give everything that I got, I feel I am doing a disservice to them. It has become who I am.”
Through nine contests this season, Bisping is averaging 10.1 points per game and 9 rebounds. Despite the Saints 3-6 record, Bisping believes that they can turn things around for the second half of the season.
“We’ve played some tough teams, but we shouldn’t be 3-6 in my opinion. We are optimistic about our future,” said Bisping. “We have a lot of talent on our team, but we are struggling to put the pieces together.”
Bisping says that sometimes things happen for a reason and there isn’t always an explanation. In his mind, his redshirt season has given him a second chance to achieve the goals he set for himself while at Siena.
“Maybe this is my chance to return and give back to Siena like I really wanted to,” said Bisping. “I want to win a conference championship (at Siena) and I think we have the talent to do that.”