Entering his final Conference USA Tournament, 6-foot-7 senior forward Seth Gearhart knows he must treasure every moment. As his career reaches possibly its final moments, Gearhart remembers the experiences that have shaped him into the student and athlete he is today.
As a freshman on the scout team, Gear- hart averaged 7.1 minutes per game. Even though Gearhart’s sophomore and junior years would bring about more playing time and better numbers with 7.0 and 6.8 points per game, respectively, under former head coach Ben Braun, those years were the most tumultuous of his Rice career. Many of the team’s top players began to transfer away from Rice, leaving Gearhart as one of the few left standing on a seven-man roster.
According to Gearhart, losing half the team was challenging but helped him grow as an individual and as a teammate.
“We unfortunately had a lot of transfers my sophomore and junior year,” Gearhart said. “We were a short team, so we had [only] about seven people. It was an expe- rience that we had to fight and persevere through.”
His roommate, fellow Will Rice College senior Dan Peera, joined him on his journey. Together, they progressed from adapting to the college game as freshmen to becoming essential parts of the team as seniors. Gearhart said their relationship developed as the two grew as contributors.
“It is great to see our progression — going from the scout team to playing minutes in meaningful games,” Gearhart said
Now, as he finishes his senior year after having stuck through previous years’ roster turmoil, Gearhart said he is glad to be part of the new beginning of Rice basketball.
“[Dan and I] have been here for the ups and downs of the past four years,” Gearhart said. “Sticking through ... resulted in a lot of good things for us. We are really excited to be part of the future. We can look back and see we set the foundation, and we are really proud of that.”
This year, with the beginning of the Mike Rhoades era at Tudor Fieldhouse, Gearhart said he feels a different and more positive environment around Rice basketball that will carry on into the upcoming years.
“I feel a different buzz playing at Tudor this year than in years past,” Gearhart said. “People were excited to come watch us. Next year, when they string a bunch of wins to- gether, that place is going to be packed. That is the main difference: People are excited.”
The offense, which focuses on speed, intensity and spacing, fits Gearhart’s strengths. The Owls’ offense requires every player to spread out across the floor in order to create better shooting opportunities. According to Gearhart, this allows him to use his unique skillset as an inside player who can shoot 3-pointers.
“Luckily for me, the offense we run moves the [forward] in and out all over the floor and to the perimeter,” Gearhart said. “It is a very versatile offense.”
Gearhart is finishing his time at Rice with fond memories on and off the court. He is graduating with a degree in economics after being named to the Conference USA All-Academic team his junior year.
According to Gearhart, Rice has given him memories and opportunities which extend past athletics.
“Rice has been a really special place for me because of the great experiences I have
had with basketball and academics,” Gear- hart said . “All the connections I have made through academics have given me a lot of op- portunities through internships.”
Looking back on his career, Gearhart points to the win against Western Kentucky in February as his best memory of his time as an Owl. Gearhart said the win was a monu- mental road upset against the conference leader.
“It showed everything that we had been working for,” Gearhart said. “Our toughness and mindset came together that game. Every- thing was firing on all cylinders. We are such a young team, and that was a point when we turned a corner and started playing better basketball.”
Gearhart was also named to the Second Team All-Conference USA this season. Ac- cording to Gearhart, the individual accolade would not be possible without the help of his teammates.
“I am very honored,” Gearhart said. “Considering where I was last year and the year before, it is really cool to have this happen. I just have to thank my team for doing so well because without them, this doesn’t happen.”