Jeremy D’Amico of Geneva hopes to end this season with a national championship, which would be the highlight of his college basketball career. For now, though, the highlight of the season for the Cardinal Stritch University senior has been a game that didn’t even count in the standings.
“We played Notre Dame and we were tied with them at halftime,” D’Amico recalls.
The Wolves ultimately lost the Nov. 2 exhibition game to the Fighting Irish, 70-56. But for the Cardinal Stritch players, the opportunity to play in South Bend was a memorable experience.
“It’s definitely very exciting,” D‘Amico said. “The arena – it’s just a great atmosphere to play in. There’s nothing else like it. ... For us, it was a big game. It was like a Super Bowl for us.”
The 6-6 forward and the rest of his teammates hope there will be a lot more big games to come before this season ends. The Wolves (19-2) are ranked third in the latest NAIA poll and have been ranked as high as No. 1 this season.
“We’re having a good season,” D’Amico said, noting that the team is undefeated (15-0) in Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference play.
Cardinal Stritch’s only losses came to a pair of ranked teams: MidAmerica Nazarene (NAIA No. 13) and Wisconsin-Whitewater (NCAA Div. III No. 12). D’Amico said the Wolves felt like they had a target on their backs while they were ranked No. 1.
“We’ve just got to keep coming out strong no matter who we play and I think we’ll do all right,” he said.
D’Amico has started 18 of the team’s 21 games. He’s averaging five points and four rebounds a game. Nearly half his points have come from 3-point range.
“We’ve got a lot of scorers on the team, so I’m more of a role player,” he said. “When I get a chance to shoot an open 3, I do.”
D’Amico said his role includes trying to get the ball into the post and being a scrappy rebounder, which he finds more difficult in the college game than it was in high school.
“Everyone’s a lot bigger, a lot stronger,” he explains. “It’s not as easy to score. It’s not as easy to get open, so you’ve got to look for different ways of doing that.”
Cardinal Stritch is located in Milwaukee, just a few blocks from Lake Michigan. Coming out of high school, however, D’Amico was attracted to a school near a different large body of water – Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“The campus is right on the ocean and it’s a really nice campus,” D’Amico says. “I also love to fish, so I had the best of both worlds.”
But two things led him to move to Milwaukee following his freshman year.
“It’s closer to home and my older brother [Brandon] transferred here,” D‘Amico says. “I’m two hours away from home. When I was in Florida, I only got to come home two days – Christmas Eve and Christmas. Then I had to fly back for practice. Here, I can go home on the weekend if I wanted to.”
Brandon D’Amico, a 6-4 guard, started his collegiate career at Eastern Illinois before deciding Cardinal Stritch was a better fit.
“I had a chance to play with him for his junior and senior years,” Jeremy said. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to play with my brother.”
Basketball is a family tradition for the D’Amico clan. Brandon and Jeremy’s father, Mark D’Amico, played basketball at the junior college level before a successful high school coaching career that included 22 years at Lisle, where his teams compiled a record of 411-195. Jeremy’s little brother, Jason, is a junior forward at Geneva, where Mark was an assistant coach when Jeremy played.
Jeremy, who lists his father as the person he most admires, remembers hanging out with the Lisle team as a boy.
“I was always around the gym,” he said.
The business major’s plans after college remain undetermined.
“I just hope to find a job,” he said, “Maybe around here or maybe back in Florida.”
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To submit information on local athletes participating in collegiate sports, email him at email@example.com.