Hamilton, ON- The game was over and the victory in hand. However, for McMaster men’s basketball seniors Sefa Otchere, Brandon Bernard and Tristan Lindo, their seniors’ night wasn’t quite over yet.
The three of them were surrounded by friends and family – with teammates as well. They were taking pictures with and without their framed McMaster jerseys, including one giant group photo. Perhaps they were soaking in the moment.
Earlier that evening, they were honoured with those jerseys in front of family and friends at the Burridge Gym. Then, they went out on the court and defeated the Toronto Varsity Blues 90-86 in overtime. In a game where every point mattered, they all contributed.
Forward Khalil Miller and guard Mychael Paulo were also honoured for seniors’ night. However, it was the three fifth-year seniors who stayed on the court the longest – both that evening and over the years.
Otchere, Bernard and Lindo are from different places but came together through being at McMaster. They all arrived in 2018, as part of McMaster head coach Patrick Tatham’s first recruiting class.
Through their years together, they’ve grown. Bernard said he’s matured. “I learned a lot about myself personally as well,” he added. “A lot of these lessons I think I’m going to take and use for the rest of my life.”
Otchere noted how he came into McMaster immature but grew and made his mark both on and off the court.
“For athletes, it’s always hard to define yourself outside of your sport,” he said. “So I feel like I was able to grow and do that.”
He did so with Bernard and Lindo. The three of them have been involved with McMaster’s Black Student Success Centre. Bernard and Lindo have organized panels and webinars – connecting with different groups with advocacy work – including the Reach Series with former teammate Kwasi Adu-Poku. The three seniors were involved in the Black Student Athlete Leadership Council as well.
Bernard and Lindo started their own podcast, The Players Podcast, bringing their voices to different subjects and experiences as well.
“Much like Tristan, I want to represent change,” Bernard told the McMaster website. “I want to be known as more than just a basketball player. I came here for basketball, but in my time being here, I made countless changes off the court, and created a lot of revolutionary things at McMaster.”
Through their experiences within and outside basketball, they did so together. They were in the same rookie class.
They played and practiced together, hung out together, went through highs and lows and stayed at McMaster together.
Inseparable, Otchere called them. Whenever and wherever you would see one of them, you would see the other two as well.
They’re a group of goofy guys, according to Lindo. He remembers all the fun they’ve had together – at road trips, in the locker room, at parties. “I’m going to miss that a lot for sure,” he noted.
Bernard remembers their camaraderie and togetherness and how they’re a tight knit family. “These guys are my brothers,” he noted. “These guys will always be my brothers for the rest of my life.”
Over time, they became key players on the team. They became leaders and veterans as well. With that came responsibility, balancing being serious and light-hearted.
“We’ve really set a good drill for some of the young guys,” Lindo said. “Keeping things light and being able to joke and being able to lock in when it counts and get these wins.”
That contrast was evident against Toronto – how they executed down the stretch and how they enjoyed the occasion afterwards.
As they celebrated on the court, they recognized the moment they were in. Lindo talked about coming full circle.
“We came in with a great class and to be the ones that finished off and stayed out through the entire journey is something once again out of a story,” Bernard said. “And it’s been a great journey.”
Otchere thought about how crazy the time has gone for him. How the five years have just flown by.
“I can’t believe I played my last game on this home court,” he said. “It’s unbelievable and to have it with my friends, my family, everything just come out.”
Euphoric. That’s what Bernard called it. He also felt the contrast of emotions as he stood on the Burridge Gym court late in the evening – amid all his friends and family – following his final McMaster home game. Extremely happy about the victory but extremely sad about the finality of it all.
“McMaster has been home to me and it’s always going to be home to me,” he noted. “It’s just tough to be leaving but I’m extremely happy about the win tonight.”
Featured Image: Michael Sun