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Brighton-Pittsford Post
  • College Basketball: Labanowski excels on, off the court

  • The University of Rochester senior starts for the men's basketball team and carries a 3.86 grade-point-average.

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  • When Luke Flockerzi was an assistant coach for the University of Rochester men’s basketball team during the 2006-07 season one of the players he recruited was Mike Labanowski, a senior at McQuaid Jesuit.
    Labanowski resisted at first; the Pittsford native wasn’t interested in attending school locally. Labanowski later decided maybe he should give the Yellowjackets a chance and after spending some time on campus with the team, decided to stay home for school.
    It appears the decision has worked out for everyone involved.
    Labanowski is averaging 11.2 points-per-game for the Yellowjackets who currently sit atop the UAA at 10-1 and 18-4 overall. The senior has been even more impressive in the classroom where he carries a 3.86 grade-point average majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in environmental engineering.
    “When I was choosing colleges, I discounted Rochester,” Labanowski said. “I finally came here and when I saw the campus and hung out with the team, it felt like a perfect fit. The academics were at a high level, and I liked the fact I could be home with my parents close.”
    In his final season, he is not only one of the Yellowjackets most dangerous shooters (team leader in three-pointers with 65) but also the most durable (he plays a team-high 34.5 minutes a game). Labanowski started his senior year by scoring 24 points in Rochester’s win over St. Lawrence on Nov. 19.
    Labanowski’s health has played an integral role in his success this winter. He is completely recovered from a torn ACL he suffered during his sophomore season.
    “He is so much more than just a shooter,” said Flockerzi, who is in his first season as the Yellowjackets head coach. “He gets everyone on the court on the same page because of his experience and leadership skills. He’s definitely one of the reasons we have had so much success this year.”
    Labanowski didn’t waste any time becoming a key contributor with Rochester.
    He averaged four points-per-game and played in all but two of Yellowjackets games as a freshman when they reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Tournament. Labanowski started the first 13 games his sophomore season and averaged 11.6 points before the ACL injury.
    Despite playing with a brace all of last year he started all 25 of his team’s games and averaged 8.1 points a contest.
    “That was one of the most difficult experiences of my life,” Labanowski said about the injury. “It was really tough for me to watch the games. Last year I didn’t feel like I was where I needed to be. I was slow, and I didn’t have the feel the same way I did on the court before the injury.”
    Mike wasn’t the only one who’s thinking changed after the injury. His parents, Bob and Mary, decided to attend every one of their son’s games, including the away contests, his final two seasons.
    Page 2 of 2 - “After (the injury) we decided to go to everyone of his games because you never when it is going to end,” Bob said. “If Mike had gone away to school, we wouldn’t have been to able to see him nearly as much. We know how fortunate we are to have (Mike) close to home.”
    Mike’s work in the classroom has generated plenty of praise. He was named to the Capital One Academic All-District College Division First Team for men’s basketball earlier this month and was chosen by Rochester as a Lysle “Spike” Garnish Scholar as one of the school’s top 10 senior scholar athletes.
    Over the summer Labanowski interned with the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant as part of a nuclear engineering mechanical design team. He is hoping to land an engineering job in Boston or Northern Virginia after graduation.
    “It was a great experience, not that many people get to see what goes on around a power plant during the day,” Labanowski said about the internship. “It was a great first job in engineering. It was nice to see what that world is like.”
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