MANCHESTER, N.H. — As Ryan Boulter left the court for the last time, with about one minute left in Saturday’s NCAA tournament loss to Dominican, Merrimack head coach Joe Gallo wrapped his arms around his senior forward.
Boulter scored 15 points in what would end up being his final collegiate game. Boulter and fellow senior Troy McLaughlin, who came off the floor at the same time as Boulter, are first-hand witnesses of the evolution of the Merrimack men’s basketball program.
As freshmen, their team was supposed to be one of the best in the NE10, but the talent never came together and the Warriors didn’t even make the conference playoffs.
Then, Boulter and McLaughlin went through a coaching change and Gallo was hired to run the program. As Boulter now graduates, he leaves behind a program that made its third straight NCAA appearance and he helped raise an NE10 championship banner last weekend for the first time in 19 years.
“Ever since Coach Gallo came in there was a lot more togetherness with the team,” Boulter said. “He created a culture. We all love seeing each other. We love competing and we love being around each other. That’s the most growth I’ve seen in the program, just the togetherness with everyone.”
Boulter believes the program is being left in good hands as the Warriors embark on their first Division I season next year.
“I love the future of this team,” he said. “They have a great coaching staff. They have a great leader at the helm in Juvaris. The future’s bright for them. If everyone just keeps buying in and keeps working hard, like we did this year, the future is bright.”
Hayes was already a leader on the floor as Merrimack’s top player, but now he’ll take on an even bigger leadership role, which is something that he said has evolved within himself over these last three years.
When I came in as a freshman, I came in passive,” Hayes said. “I’ve tried to become more of a vocal leader for my team. This year I was talking more and the team had a family atmosphere. It’s making me become a better person and a better leader, and that has made me become a way better basketball player.”