Peter Dindinger — NMMI Sports Press
When the going gets tough, a lot can be said about a team's character and how they react to adversity.
The New Mexico Military Institute Bronco basketball team dealt with their fair share of obstacles throughout the 2019-2020 season.
Finishing 15-14 overall, the Broncos got their chance to play in March during a play-in game against Western Texas College to decide the fourth playoff spot in the Region V tourney.
NMMI came up short, 75-65.
The season wasn't a disappointment as the Broncos almost doubled their wins after stringing together nine wins the previous year.
Two Broncos earned postseason honors as freshman Osborn Shema was named first team in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference along with Defensive Player of the Year.
Shema was also named to the All-Region team for Region V.
Sophomore Jermane Carter picked up honorable mention in the WJCAC.
On Wednesday, the good news echoed throughout social media in the college basketball world.
Shema, a 7-foot-1 native of Rwanda, officially committed to NCAA Division I Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.
After averaging 10.6 points a game and 8.1 rebounds, Shema will get an opportunity to play for legendary head coach Rick Pitino, who led Kentucky and Louisville to national titles in 1996 and 2013.
"It means a lot. It's a step to getting closer to my goals. With a coach like him, it's really easy," said Shema.
After attending Glove Prep Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, Shema got an opportunity to play for NCAA Division I Florida Gulf Coast University, but he backed out and traveled to Roswell to attend the institute.
Shema tallied seven double-doubles while recording double-digit scoring figures in 15 games.
He tallied a season-high 24 points during a 109-101 loss at Trinidad State Junior College on Nov. 12.
On Jan. 6, Shema finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds after suffering a 64-55 defeat to New Mexico Junior College. The 15 boards were a season-high.
He ranked fifth in the WJCAC in rebounds (132), second in blocks (45) and 10th in rebounds per game while his 81 total blocks placed ninth in the nation.
"It's a good situation because it has good structure. You're just focused on your studies and basketball," Shema said about his time spent at NMMI. "It really prepared me a lot. I'm thankful and glad that I played there.
"I think it went great. We actually lost about six players at the beginning of the season and we still managed to get a chance to get to the playoffs. I was proud of my teammates and coaches."
Iona had gone 12-17 overall and 9-11 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this past season. Pitino, a Hall of Fame coach, was officially announced as the head coach of the Gaels on March 14 after coach Tim Cluess stepped down after a decade due to health concerns.
Pitino has taken four different schools to the NCAA tournament.
"Those types of players don't come around very often that are just complete from ability to character," said NMMI head coach Sean Schooley about Shema. "We were very fortunate and it was a real privilege to be able to coach him.
"His feeling is pretty high. We're excited that he gets to play for coach Pitino because it will really help his chances to play beyond college."
NMMI assistant coach Will Joyce added: "It was real big for Shema to get this opportunity. I felt like Shema worked hard to get to this point. He came here to win. One of the reasons why Osborn came here was so he could get that experience playing at a high level. He impacted the WJCAC."
The Broncos are graduating five sophomores.
This team will be remembered for the fight they exhibited throughout the season, especially when players were injured.
"We had lost three or four really good players through the course of the year. It really shows character of the guys who remain and my coaching staff," Schooley said. "They just keep fighting, playing wounded and coming back every day – that is a testament to them and how much they wanted to win and play for each other."
Joyce added: "This wasn't a disappointing season at all for us. The whole team was high-character guys this year and they showed nothing but fight. They battled, they didn't give up at all and they pushed through."