John Bedford '06
Bedford earned a bevy of honors in his junior campaign including Second-Team NABC All-Region and First-Team All-NESCAC.

Amherst's Bedford Built for Greatness

November 2, 2005

by Ted Platt '05

AMHERST, MA - People are talking about the prospects for the 2005-06 Amherst men's basketball team, ranked fifth in the preseason poll. Senior co-captain John Bedford has heard it all before. He's helped lead the team to NCAA Division III Elite Eight, Final Four and Sweet Sixteen appearances in the past three seasons, but he believes this year's team can set itself apart, yet again.

A member of the 2003-04 Final Four squad that everybody had written off due to the loss of the school's all-time scoring, blocked-shots, rebounds and assists leaders, Bedford's seen how good leadership, months of pre-season dedication and a family atmosphere can create something special. "Those guys (tri-captains John Donovan '04, Adam Harper '04 and Tim Jones '04) were probably the best captains that anyone's ever played for," said Bedford. "I learned a lot about how to win and what it takes to succeed from those guys." He plans to apply those lessons, along with co-captain John Casnocha '06, and lead another promising group deep into the post-season and hopefully to the ultimate goal of an NCAA Championship. "It's an incredibly athletically gifted team," he said, "maybe the most athletic team I've ever played on. Now it's just a matter of us coming together and deciding we want it." It's the team he's talking about, but it's a statement that could just as easily describe him.

Bedford has been endowed with ample athletic and mental gifts, and has shown he can step into the spotlight and take over games for this storied program. He's put in the work since the first grade, when he'd battle one-on-one with cousin Joe Jackson-who went on to play at Division I power Villanova University-and he fondly recalled that the dream of collegiate basketball became a constant in his life, saying, "My mom reminds me how I'd always promise to get a basketball scholarship." His exploits certainly merited a scholarship, after playing five years of AAU and leading the Lawrenceville School to a New Jersey State Championship in his junior season of high school.

He has the requisite raw athleticism to lead this year's team to another postseason-he was asked to step in and play for Lawrenceville's lacrosse team in his junior year without any background in the game. He obliged, becoming a dominant defender for the team in his debut season, and went on to join the Jeffs' squad in his first year at Amherst.

Bedford also has intelligence, as he's demonstrated at both the high school- and college-level. He picked up complicated lacrosse defensive schemes on the fly to become an immediate force for Lawrenceville, and he had incredible success playing as the cerebral sixth man for Amherst's 2003-04 Final Four team, a role which required continuous analysis of how a game was shaping up and immediate application of that analysis once in-game. "We (the coaching staff) joked as early as his sophomore year about whether a kid could be First-Team All-NESCAC coming off the bench," said Amherst Head Coach Dave Hixon, "but it wasn't really a joke, he was that good in that role." Extremely successful at Amherst because of the versatility his intelligence affords, he's helped three completely different teams push deep into the postseason, and whether it be the "run-and-gun team" from '03-'04, or the "power-team" of '02-'03, he's quickly mastered the style and contributed.

Bedford's natural ability to learn quickly in a new system and immediately make an impact is evident off the court as well, exemplified by his success as an associate in private wealth management for UBS Paine Webber last summer. "It's just another team environment where you get rewarded for taking initiative while working within some set rules," he explained, downplaying his knack for reading a situation and immediately recognizing how to adapt and apply his own gifts.

He knows he can meet new challenges and perform. "I've always fed off pressure. I need to put myself on the line," he said. "I don't want to be the person watching, I want to be the person doing." Hixon elaborated, "He's a player that can take the big shot and make the big shot, and we trust him to." Bedford's relished that role. He sealed the deal for his Lawrenceville team in the state finals with two free throws in the final minute. He's clinched countless big games for Amherst in similar fashion, knocking down dream-shattering trifectas in the Jeffs' win over upset-minded Brandeis and calmly draining clutch free throws to clinch victories over Bowdoin and Trinity in NESCAC Tournament play last year.

His confidence is borne from his dedication. "When you've worked hard for months before the season, you know you can get out there and win," he explained. Knowing that satisfaction would come with commitment has pulled him through some tough patches. Whether it was the unhealthy chunk of weight he lost in his first year at Amherst adjusting to a hefty workload while playing basketball and lacrosse at his physically trying standards, or the "unproductive" spells he suffered in the past two basketball seasons, he's solved the problem simply by re-dedicating himself. He regained the weight by making basketball his sole focus, and he's flipped the switch from cold to hot each season by re-discovering his first-grade passion, thanks to a little help from his family. His sophomore year it was an endless game of one-on-one over Christmas vacation with Jackson that reminded him he could play at highest level if he wanted it badly enough. He returned to Amherst in January with a new will to succeed and averaged nearly 13 points per game off the bench the rest of the season. Last year the reminder was a phone call from his mother before every game saying, "if you're not giving 110%, don't bother playing." He closed out the season with 18 straight games in double-figure scoring, picking up a bevy of awards-including First-Team All-NESCAC and NABC All-Region honors-along the way.

The concept of desire is simple enough, but it's not generated spontaneously or found easily. No matter for John Bedford-he's been working toward a goal for the better part of his life, and he found the desire long ago. Now he's in search of an NCAA Championship, and with some timely reminders along the way, he just may find one.