Indira Evora and Tomi Akinpetide, the co-captains of the St. Michael’s women’s basketball team, felt a sense of determination when the team was pegged to finish last in the 2016-17 NE-10 preseason poll.
Their leadership both on and off the court has allowed the Purple Knights to enjoy a season that no one but the captains expected. With five games left on the team’s regular season slate, it has surpassed their record from last year and are in the thick of NE-10 tournament contention, with a 10-7 mark in conference play after Wednesday night’s 60-53 win at Franklin Pierce.
“Having that [rank] in the back of our minds, we set out to prove people wrong,” said Evora, the senior starting guard. “We have nothing to lose; they already ranked us last. Playing hard every game puts more hope on our side.”
Fourth year head coach Shannon Kynoch has been there every step of the way throughout Evora and Akinpetide’s careers. As the team continues to shut down the conference’s preconceived assumptions, Kynoch sees her team’s success this season stemming from the work ethic of Evora and Akinpetide – her two captains.
“They don’t take a day off. They work hard every single day.” Kynoch said. “They have been central in getting 12 women bought into what we’re trying to do as a program.”
Junior starting forward Leah Spencer ‘18 agrees with her head coach.
“(Evora and Akinpetide) do a great job of keeping us together,” Spencer said. “I think the team chemistry has played a lot into our success this year.”
So far this season, Evora is third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.0, while Akinpetide is putting up 4.8 points per game.
The co-captains contribute the team’s success this season to embracing their teammates’ charisma, as they have provided a philosophy of individuality and glee within with a team-based environment.
“I think we’re just fun,” Akinpetide said. “The team is comfortable being themselves, whereas in the past I feel like that lacked. We accept everyone’s personality. We love when people are themselves around us because we like to be ourselves around our teammates, too.”
During the recruitment process prior to the 2013-2014 season, Kynoch, who was the assistant coach at the time, had no doubt in her mind that Evora and Akinpetide would become the friends and leaders that they are today.
When Evora and Akinpetide first met, Kynoch’s impressions became a reality.
“They were just inseparable,” Kynoch said as she reflected on her players’ first year with the program, her first as a head coach. “I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason, and I think that those two just clicked.”
From sharing living quarters for four years, to the countless hours of work put in on the court, a harmonic bond between the co-captains is constantly present.
“Even on the court, if we’re not on the same team during practice drills, we miss each other,” Akinpetide said.
Akinpetide, who has a year left of playing eligibility, plans to continue to enforce the family-like culture in the 2017-2018 season.
The Purple Knights will honor Evora on Saturday, Feb. 18 in their senior game against Assumption at 1:30 P.M.