Colorado State senior guard enters his fourth year with the program, and will leave as the first player in the Larry Eustachy era to start and end his career at CSU. Collegian sportswriter Keegan Pope sat down with him to discuss his time at CSU, the Fort Collins community and growing up in an athletic family.
Keegan Pope: So this is your fourth year in the program now, you’re the only player to play here for all four years. What’s that experience been like?
Joe De Ciman: “I’ve grown up, ya know? I’ve been blessed to have great leadership and have great seniors here in my four years. When I came here, I was with Jesse (Carr), Wes (Eikmeier), Dorian (Green), Colt (Iverson), Pierce (Hornung) and Greg (Smith). They took me under their wing, and taught me how to handle myself on the court, how to handle myself off the court. To be here four years, it makes me appreciate Fort Collins, the University, my coaches, and all the great people I see every day. Being here for four years makes me really cherish the program, and make me really want to play for Colorado State.
KP: What was the experience like, coming into a team with all those seniors who played in the NCAA tournament?
JD: “Not many freshman walk into (a team) with that kind of makeup. These days it’s rare, people transferring or one-and-done’s. Having seniors that came in together, lost and grew. Made the NCAA tournament the year before. Just watching them handle business. They were grown men. I had to adjust to them, they weren’t going to adjust to me. That’s how it’s done. It taught me how to lead these young guys, and what it really takes to win.”
KP: Obviously there have been guys that have come and gone. A lot of guys have transferred in, guys have transferred out. How challenging is it each year to develop a relationship with new guys that are constantly coming in and out?
JD: “It’s tough you know. High school kids coming in don’t understand how we play the game of basketball specifically here. Junior college guys that come are here for a short period of time so they kind of have to catch on quick. Our coaching staff is one of the greatest in the country. I truly believe that. We have great trainers. We have great strength coaches. You know everyone around this program are great people. We’re all on the same page so I think it makes it easier for them to see how we do it here. All the guys that coaches recruit, they come in with open ears. They aren’t trying to do their own thing. They know we’ve had success and they just want to be a part of that.”
KP: “Do you think being here for four years gives you a connection with CSU fans. Dorian, Greg and some of those others, CSU fans grew up with them. Started with them winning seven games, and finished with them in the NCAA tournament. Do you feel like you’ve grown up with this community and become a part of it?
JD: “Yeah, I love playing basketball. I love going to school. But that’s been the most rewarding and genuine part of being here for so long, is the community. I know so many people. And walking around now people will say you’re a senior now, and it’s a little sad. I’ve been able to meet some of the greatest people that i’ll be in touch with for my life. That’s been the best moment being here.”
KP: Has it been an advantage being here for a longer time than some of the other guys and being able to get adjusted and understand what’s expected of you?
JD: “Yeah off the court, and just knowing all the people I know. Around the athletic department and the community. Just knowing where to go. Fort Collins is nice, it is home to me. It really is, I don’t go home much anymore. From a basketball standpoint, being coached every day for four years. Our coaching staff doesn’t take it easy on everybody. They’ll be brutally honest. Just being in this environment for four years has helped me grow my game on the court and as a person. I think that’s my biggest advantage is being coached hard.
KP: You’ve got quite the athletic history in your family, with both of your sisters playing Division I sports, what was it like growing up in such a competitive family?
JD: “It wasn’t really that fun for me sometimes. I’ve got an older brother, who is pretty bouncy. It wasn’t fun getting beat by girls, either. It was always fun, we were always competing. They got me at basketball and it was great, and if I had good days or bad days at practice I could go to them and they understood exactly what I was talking about. I love them to death and they really helped me grow up.
KP: Now that you’re at this point, and you’ve hit your senior year, are you kind of feeling that right now or do you think it will take until the end of the year to realize this is your last year playing at CSU?
JD: It’ll definitely take until senior night, you know I’ve talked about being a senior and how crazy that is, but it doesn’t feel like it just yet. On that night it will kick in and I’m trying not to think about, but knowing that it’s almost here, I’m just trying to enjoy every day. Coming to practice, competing, getting coached at a high level, playing the games, not many people get to experience that, and I’m just thankful I’ve been able to.
Collegian Senior Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.