Rochester College basketball team finally has a place to call home
The new Garth Pleasant Arena is previewed via an artist’s depiction. The venue will serve as the first-ever home venue for the Rochester College basketball program, hosting its first game on Feb. 18.
Posted February 9, 2017
ROCHESTER HILLS — Over the years, the Rochester College men’s basketball program has had great success.
The Warriors have consistently placed high in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II rankings and have earned five national championships since 1989.
Despite those accomplishments, the Warriors have never had the opportunity to truly defend a home floor, going without an on-campus stadium since the school’s inception in 1959. That changes Feb. 18, when the Garth Pleasant Arena officially opens its doors, hosting the final game of the regular season.
The Warriors, 25-1 overall at press time, take on Great Lakes Christian College.
“We really needed this,” said RC coach Klint Pleasant of the new arena. “We’ve had a rich history with our athletic department, but there has been a stigma of not being able to play a home game. Now, players, staff, students and people from the community can literally walk a few steps over to our arena.”
The $5.3 million structure seats 1,000 fans and features new offices for Pleasant and his staff. It is named after his father, a legendary figure in the school’s history who amassed 720 wins while manning the RC sideline for 38 seasons.
All of those “home” victories were captured in nearby gyms, most often renting out Rochester High. Now Pleasant is excited to build on that tradition with a true home-court advantage that bears his family’s namesake.
“I’m extremely grateful for my father’s legacy, and we certainly would not be talking about this without him,” Pleasant said. “Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have a job where I get to coach college basketball in a place with my dad’s name on it. It’s really cool; not many will ever get that opportunity.”
The RC community had clamored for its own venue for decades, but a fundraising campaign in 2013 got the ball rolling. Local auto dealer Bill Fox gave a $1 million matching donation, but with a certain stipulation.
“Bill is a really good friend to the school and our family, and he gave an amazing gift with the condition that the arena be named after my father,” Pleasant said. “I think it’s fitting, because Bill really jumpstarted everything with his gift, and it honors a man who has worked here and in the community for 40 years.”
Garth Pleasant still teaches at the college, but retired from his post as coach in 2011. The reins were given to Klint Pleasant, who admitted that the lack of a home hardwood posed a definite obstacle while recruiting.
“On a campus visit you could point out our great tradition, fantastic academic programs and mission, but then you would have to also mention that we play at a high school down the road,” Pleasant said. “If the student was really looking for that true collegiate experience, we really couldn’t offer that.”
The inaugural contest on Feb. 18 will serve as Senior Night for the Warriors, something Pleasant’s upperclassmen are looking forward to.
“It is going to be a great experience, but it is bigger than just the seniors getting to play,” said senior guard Angelo Griffis. “It shows the program is evolving and growing. This is a new beginning, but the former players should see it as their legacy.”
“To have a true home game is something we are all really excited about,” senior guard Paris Pereira added. “We really appreciate it, but we realize that it is definitely more about those in the past who literally built this up.”
Pleasant is thrilled that the arena is opening in time for his current crop of seniors.
“Originally, I wanted to open it up for the first game next season,” Pleasant said. “But the more I thought about it, I realized that we could do this backwards and open the last game of the year. It serves as a great reward, with a tremendous way to send out our seniors.”
In addition to his coaching duties, Pleasant serves as the school’s athletic director and vice president of enrollment. He said the newest building on campus aids more than just the basketball team.
An old practice facility on the west end of campus may be renovated into an indoor turf field for the baseball, softball and soccer clubs. Additionally, part of that building could be turned into a recreation center for all students.
“With my administrator hat on, I can see this arena creating a domino effect and benefiting the entire school,” Pleasant said. “We will have a place to host commencement and convocation ceremonies, fundraising events, and summer camps for kids.”
The arena is slated to host Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett’s annual State of the City address. It also qualified the institution to join the Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference next year, as the Warriors previously competed independently in D-II. The new home may also create new sports under the Rochester umbrella, such as competitive cheer, wrestling, tennis and lacrosse.
“With my AD hat on, this arena catapults us into a whole new set of possibilities,” Pleasant said. “Being in a conference is huge, because that gives a home to all of our sports and allows for local rivalries and camaraderie. Being able to add sports would also really expand what we can offer potential student-athletes.”
Pleasant said Feb. 18 will be a highly emotional afternoon, but one that will serve as a testament to the growth of the entire school.
“It will be a day where the history and future of our program will be celebrated,” Pleasant said. “It belongs to all of the former players, our alumni base and the community. This is the advent of something that really will make a difference for us.”
Meet the Warriors
The Rochester College men’s basketball team features a roster that hails from all over the globe, as local talent is joined by several college transfers and international players. The team will take the floor for the inaugural contest at Garth Pleasant Arena on Feb. 18. Listed are the players along with the last school they attended before Rochester College, whether it be right out of high school or a transfer from another university. Players from the C & G coverage area are in bold.
• Brendan Adams, Clinton Township Clintondale
• Kash Blackwell, Cuyahoga Community College
• Paris Pereira, Rochester High
• Ronald Norfleet, University of Central Oklahoma
• Justin Nafso, Walled Lake Central
• Anton Lucaj, Walled Lake Central
• Brad Sorenson, Romeo High
• Cannon Campbell, Rossview High
• Jaylen Larry, Kalamazoo Valley Community College
• Dimitri Pappas, 4th General High (Athens, Greece)
• Peter Agba, University of Akron
• Cap Wilson, Goodrich High
• Andrew Kline, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes
• Cameron Adams, Clintondale
• Angelo Griffis, Ferris State University
• Armand Cartwright, Bloomfield Hills High
• Viktoras Merkevicius, McLennan Community College
• Moses Toriola, Norfolk State University
About the author
Timothy Pontzer is a sports reporter who covers Oakland and Macomb counties for the Shelby-Utica News, Macomb Chronicle, Troy Times and Rochester Post. Pontzer has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2016 and is a proud graduate of Oakland University.
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